The proposed Texas “bathroom bill” died during a special legislative session last month, but the debate over transgender restroom policies hasn’t gone away.
The San Antonio school district is the latest in the cross hairs of social conservatives, after its school board last month added the words “gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation” to its nondiscrimination policy.
Restrooms and locker rooms are not mentioned anywhere, and a spokeswoman told the San Antonio Express-News that the district still requires students to use facilities that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.
But critics say the newly worded policy will effectively allow transgender students to use the restrooms of their choice.
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In a news release Monday, Texas Values, an Austin-based Christian lobbying organization, accused the district of using the policy to start a “bathroom war.”
Texas Values and others opposed to the policy held a news conference Monday afternoon ahead of a school board meeting, accusing the board of approving the policy without input from parents.
“The reason our organization is here is because many people in San Antonio feel that the school board did not ask them what their opinion was on this,” Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said. “Why were parents not allowed to get involved? Why were taxpayers shut out of the process?”
A Texas Values petition opposing the policy has more than 2,100 signatures, more than 700 of which are from San Antonio residents, Saenz said.
Saenz pointed to the controversy over the issue in Fort Worth, where the school board last year adopted transgender guidelines that deal with each student on a “case-by-case basis.”
The guidelines were finalized after six town hall forums and five committee meetings and criticism from state officials such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The initial Fort Worth guidelines noted that “transitioning is a very private matter” and that “students may choose whether or not to have their parents participate in the process. In fact, notifying a parent or guardian carries risks for the students in some cases.”
While the first set of guidelines was embraced by Fort Worth’s LGBT community, some elected officials and pro-family groups said the rules created a dangerous environment in which male predators could walk into a girls’ bathroom.
At a news conference before a school board meeting, Patrick called Scribner a “dictator” and said he should resign.
“Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position,” Patrick said. “Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged.”
After Paxton issued an opinion stating that the guidelines could violate state laws by withholding information from parents, the district revised the policy.
At the time, Saenz, the Texas Values president, called the Fort Worth district’s revision a “dramatic retreat” that “should send a message to all Texas school districts — you don’t mess with parents rights and safety in Texas public schools.”
Saenz on Monday said, “It would be a major mistake if San Antonio followed in the footsteps of these other districts,” also mentioning a similar controversy in the Dripping Springs school district near Austin.