Top Fort Worth school administrators and Superintendent Kent P. Scribner have clarified district policies regarding transgender students, and they are strongly supportive of those students’ rights, safety and personal choices.
The newly issued guidelines are certain to be controversial, just as these issues have been statewide and nationally. But they are consistent with federal law and with nondiscrimination policies previously adopted by district trustees.
It’s a clear attempt to steer the district through controversy while maintaining a focus on education. The job of public schools is to teach, and to do so they must create an atmosphere in which all students feel accepted.
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.”
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The policy includes access to restrooms consistent with “the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts.”
A transgender student or other students who are uncomfortable sharing a restroom or who want increased privacy must be offered access to a single-stall restroom or the opportunity to use a restroom when no other students are present.
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 on league sports.
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.
The guidelines were approved by Scribner on April 19. They were also signed by Michael Steinert, assistant superintendent for student support services; Valerie Carrillo, chief legal counsel; and Georgi Roberts, director of health and physical education.
One of the most controversial parts 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.
Working through this won’t be easy, but it is necessary. Scribner and his staff are providing leadership.