Jessica Love, a 16-year-old transgender student in the Fort Worth school district, avoids using the restroom at her school.
“I wait until I get home,’’ said Love, who was born a male but identifies as a transgender female.
Guidelines recently established by Superintendent Kent Scribner now require school officials to offer students like Jessica access to a single-stall restroom or the opportunity to use a restroom when no other students are present.
The guideline goes even further: It asserts that students have access to restrooms consistent with “the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts.”
Jessica, whose birth name is “Dillon,” said Scribner’s guidelines are a cause for celebration among transgender students.
“It just makes it better for transgender people,” she said. “People don’t give them any respect. Sometimes, they don’t even think transgender people are human. I agree this is important.”
The debate over transgender bathrooms has emerged as a hot political debate in recents, thanks mostly the recent passing of a law in North Carolina that requires transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their biological gender.
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Similar bills have been introduced in other states and the issue promises to be a point of debate at this week’s state GOP convention in Dallas.
Why no public debate?
Scribner announced Fort Worth’s directive at the board’s April 19 meeting. There was no discussion at the meeting and it was not included as an action item on the board’s agenda.
Some trustees later caught flak from groups that are critical of practices that allow access to restrooms consistent with the gender identity of students.
Trustee Judy Needham, for example, said that she would have welcomed discussion on the matter after some local citizens contacted her.
“The community should have gotten the opportunity to speak,” Needham said on Wednesday afternoon.
It is likely the move will draw some public outcry in upcoming days, other trustees said.
As part of the guidelines, school district personnel are instructed in no uncertain terms to “show respect for the student’s desires and wishes to the extent practical.”
Board president Jacinto Ramos could not be reached for comment.
‘Show respect’ for the student
As part of Scribner’s guidelines, district personnel are instructed in no uncertain terms to “show respect for the student’s desires and wishes to the extent practical so as to foster a productive educational process for all.”
Also, students are to be allowed to participate in athletic activities and other school programs according to their chosen gender expression, subject to University Interscholastic League rules.
The UIL decided in February that participation in gender-specific league sports should be according to the gender on a student’s birth certificate. Birth certificates can be changed and new certificates issued through a legal process.
One of the most controversial parts of Scribner’s guidelines is likely to be the instructions for school personnel on their relationship with a transgender student’s parents.
Campus counselors are to serve as “a designated ally” for students on transgender and gender identity issues. They and other personnel are to share information about students, including with that student’s parents, only “on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs.”
They “must work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any,” parents are consulted.
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