Editorials

Transgender guideline study on a steady path

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Superintendent Kent P. Scribner, trustee Christene Moss and Michael Steinert, assistant superintendent of student support services listen to speakers in first in a series of public forums on FWISD’s transgender guidelines at Dunbar High School on May 31.
Superintendent Kent P. Scribner, trustee Christene Moss and Michael Steinert, assistant superintendent of student support services listen to speakers in first in a series of public forums on FWISD’s transgender guidelines at Dunbar High School on May 31. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth school district leaders are taking a measured approach to criticism over their new guidelines to accommodate transgender students.

That’s in stark contrast to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who seems to believe that enough hysterical political bluster will push lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people back into the closet.

Fort Worth school trustees and top administrators, including Superintendent Kent Scribner, have held six community forums throughout the city, listening to district residents and others talk about the guidelines.

They say they’ll now ask a committee of residents and leaders from the faith, civic and LGBT communities to help determine what revisions to the guidelines are needed.

Scribner presented the guidelines to the school board on April 26. Patrick has called repeatedly for his resignation or removal.

“A school district is not a monarchy and Scribner is not a king,” Patrick said last month.

Oh, please. Hyperbole gets us nowhere.

Patrick also asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on whether the guidelines violate state law and whether Scribner exceeded his authority by putting them into effect without a school board vote.

No and no, district General Council Valerie Carrillo wrote in a letter to Paxton this week.

Patrick says schools should never hide information from parents or guardians, which portions of the guidelines allow.

In fact, Carrillo’s letter points out, state law and prior attorney general opinions specify several situations in which parental access to information is limited.

Nevertheless, Carrillo wrote, the district “intends to clarify this provision of the Guidelines accordingly and may have other changes after receiving parental and community input.”

As to whether Scribner’s actions were legal and proper, both Carillo and the Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund say they were.

“Widespread school district policy and practice reflects state law by authorizing superintendents to adopt administrative regulations, including ‘guidelines,’ and thousands of such regulations are in place around the state,” the association’s director of legal services, Joy Baskin, wrote to Paxton.

Elected school boards set policies (in 2011, Fort Worth trustees adopted a policy against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression), and administrators write procedures and guidelines to carry out those policies.

School board members can change those procedures and guidelines if they wish.

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