Texas AG Ken Paxton calls FWISD transgender guidelines illegal

State Attorney General Ken Paxton says Fort Worth ISD’s transgender guidelines are illegal, agreeing with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

The non-binding opinion says Superintendent Kent Scribner violated the Texas education code when he adopted the policies without school board approval.

During Tuesday’s scheduled board education meeting, Scribner said new guidelines are on the way.

Scribner offered the clearest language yet during the meeting, saying the controversial transgender guidelines will be changed.

"Which are constructive dialog in an effort to revise the original version of the guidelines with an improved, clarified and more consume version, which I believe, will reflect the input we've received this far,” the superintendent said. “I'm confident that the revised version will reinforce the importance of parent voice."

The guidelines instruct staff on how to treat and accommodate transgender students. And just hours before the board meeting, Paxton issued his non-binding opinion, calling the guidelines illegal.

But during the meeting, Scribner never referenced Paxton's opinion. A Fort Worth ISD spokesman said the district's attorney is reviewing it.

Since its legality was questioned, the district held several community forums and pledged to clarify the guidelines, including setting up a committee to suggest possible changes.

Before a meeting back in May, Patrick outlined his legal concerns -- specifically, language in that said under certain circumstances a teacher or administrator would not be allowed to discuss a student's gender identity with that student's parents.

According to the opinion, "the guidelines relegate parents to a subordinate status" and" limiting parents access to information in this way impairs their ability to 'actively participate' in the children's education, contrary to state law.”

Jonathan Saenz with the conservative group Texas Values says it is a clear sign the guidelines need to be scrapped.

"And this is what happens when you keep parents in the dark and when you try to keep the process from being out in the open,” he said. “Mistakes are made. Sloppy legal decisions are made.”

Also in question is why the guidelines were not brought to the board for a vote.

According to the opinion, "policy decisions, like those addressing parental involvement with students gender identity choices, be addressed by the board of trustees.”

"The only reason the public has been heard on this issue is because we refuse to be silent,” said Saenz.

The guidelines have been praised by the LGBT community as a positive step toward ending discrimination and bullying against transgender students.

"These guidelines are necessary and crucial to support our vulnerable students and our staff and educators,” said transgender advocate Avery Belyeu.

"That we embrace understanding over fear, facts over furry and respect for all students and their families over recriminations for anyone,” said David Henderson with Fairness Fort Worth.

 

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