New guidelines on meeting the needs of transgender students announced Wednesday by Fort Worth school officials should accomplish the same positive things as those adopted just three months ago — but in a much briefer, more direct and smarter fashion and, there’s reason to hope, without explosive controversy.
The guidelines probably won’t escape criticism, but that won’t be through lack of effort from school leaders.
They’ve spent these past three months listening to anyone who wanted to talk about transgender issues, from top state officials to activists and parents, local leaders and students.
The storm of public opinion over guidelines announced in April swirled primarily around three topics: transgender students’ access to restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity, communication between educators and parents or guardians, and lack of opportunity for public input.
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The restroom/locker room issue hasn’t changed: Some transgender students want to use restrooms/locker rooms according to their gender identity rather than their birth gender.
That’s still possible under the new guidelines, but the process of getting to that point is far better explained. It’s also made clear that the process involves parents or guardians.
Superintendent Kent Scribner stresses that the number of students involved is very small (“a handful”) compared to the district’s enrollment of more than 86,000. So the guidelines tell educators “to consider the needs of transgender students and their families on a case by case basis.”
Students, parents or guardians are to contact a campus administrator or guidance counselor for a meeting “to discuss the student’s unique circumstances and needs.” The campus administrator is to develop a written “student individual support plan” to address those needs.
That plan could include restrooms and locker rooms. The guidelines say, “The goal will be the creation of a safe and supportive environment for students impacted by the accommodation with due recognition of the privacy rights of all students.”
A student who seeks to use a restroom/locker room other than the one for their birth gender without a written student individual support plan in place will be subject to discipline for violating conduct codes.
Questions about public input have been rendered moot these past three months by hard work and openness from Scribner, school board President Jacinto Ramos Jr., other board members and educators.