Bud Kennedy

Scary toilets! Rogue superintendents! Must be Dan Patrick again

The Associated Press

Fort Worth is a global city. We want to do business with everybody.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a petty politician trying to divide voters.

His goal is not our goal.

That’s why Fort Worth as a city — our principles, our people and our public schools — have become Patrick’s targets in a selfish campaign-year proxy fight meant to motivate faith-and-values voters for an election that holds little to rally around.

Patrick is from Houston, where religious conservatives persuaded women and African-Americans to vote against a civil-rights ordinance last fall by using the campaign slogan “NO Men in Women’s Bathrooms.”

As it happens, those are also voters whom Republicans would like to enlist this fall in local Texas races and in a national campaign against Hillary Clinton.

That’s why Patrick has zeroed in on the Fort Worth schools and their talented new superintendent, Kent Scribner, as a target to bring the restroom campaign to Dallas-Fort Worth.

And that’s why nearly every time Patrick rails against Scribner’s recent instructions carrying out a 2011 board policy on transgender rights, Patrick works in a steamed reference to “President Obama.”

(Yes, I know just the other day the federal government sent schools a letter. But that May 13 letter from the Education and Justice departments on transgender students’ legal rights only came after similar political grandstanding in Florida and North Carolina, and after a Virginia federal court of appeals decision upholding students’ equality.)

Fort Worth has a history of openness to all, mutual respect and not meddling too much in anyone’s private life.

We welcome everybody. In the American West, they called that the “cowboy way.”

So in 2000, the City Council added sexual orientation to our equal-rights ordinance. In 2009, transgender rights were added.

In 2011, school trustees under President T.A. Sims voted 9-0 to include transgender equal student rights in the district’s anti-discrimination policy. The few students are protected.

In Patrick’s imaginary world of political make-believe, he continues to tell giant whoppers about that 5-year-old policy and Scribner’s recent directions for carrying it out, based in part on lawyers’ and trustees’ advice.

Patrick commands more TV cameras than Scribner or Fort Worth board President Jacinto Ramos Jr. So Patrick gets away with calling Scribner a “rogue, runaway superintendent” and the guidelines “mandatory policies” with no board vote.

One big problem here is that Fort Worth doesn’t have a senator, and our suburban senators are not sticking up for us.

State Sens. Konni Burton of Colleyville and Jane Nelson of Flower Mound represent most of the district, but they need Patrick’s help to pass other bills.

(Burton has carefully said parents needed more say-so in the legal interpretation.)

I’m guessing Patrick will keep bashing Fort Worth until at least Election Night, Nov. 8.

Instead of “Secure the Border,” this election’s gimmick is “Secure the Bathroom.”

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.