Texas

Conservative Lawmakers Push for Review of School Board Guidelines on Transgender Students

(TEXAS TRIBUNE)- A far-right group of state lawmakers has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to review the Texas School Board Association’s guidance on transgender youth, arguing that the advice “will endanger children and encourage school districts to keep parents in the dark.”

The association, which serves more than 1,000 school boards statewide, has updated long-standing guidance regarding transgender students after receiving questions from school officials about how to navigate the complex legal landscape on issues such as toilet access and Title IX, the federal civil rights prohibiting sex. discrimination based on discrimination, said TASB Deputy Executive Director Tiffany Dunn-Oldfield.

The 13-page document outlines the legal rights of transgender students and explains how school districts can avoid policies that contravene federal anti-discrimination laws.

In its guidance, TASB recommends that school administrators discuss “suitable accommodations” with students and parents. Where children ask district officials not to disclose their gender identity to their parents, the guidance recommends that they “proceed with caution” and in accordance with district policy.

“Ultimately, the best advice is to evaluate each situation as it arises, working closely with the student, parent, and district counselor to reach a solution that protects the learning environment for all,” the guide says.

The council drew rebuke from the Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservative lawmakers. In a letter to Paxton on Tuesday, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, who chairs the caucus, accused TASB of advising counties to violate parental rights by not sharing information about a child’s gender identity.

“The Texas Freedom Caucus humbly requests that your office immediately review TASB’s guidance and offer our school boards legal guidance to keep our schools safe and healthy,” Schaefer wrote in the letter.

Schaefer is among several Republican lawmakers who have filed more than four dozen anti-LGBTQ bills, according to Equality Texas, an LGBTQ rights organization that monitors such legislation. The bills include measures that would restrict in-class teaching on sexuality and gender identity, as well as gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Schaefer, who did not respond to requests for comment, also wrote that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that schools can require children to use toilets that match their birth sex. The TASB manual stated that the court had no jurisdiction in Texas. The association said no other presiding court in the state has ruled on children using toilets that match their gender identity.

“Counties are tasked with finding the reasonable solution that best fits each situation, in light of non-discrimination principles and practical options,” the TASB guidance says. It provided suggestions on how schools can communicate with students and parents to develop a plan for the use of available facilities, including gender-neutral restrooms or changing rooms.

Dunn-Oldfield denied the allegations outlined in Schaefer’s letter, saying that the TASB “does not order counties to allow men into women’s restrooms” or advise them to violate parental rights.

“In fact, we are arguing that school districts must work with students and parents to address these situations and that “parents have the right to direct their children’s education and make health decisions for them,” Dunn-Oldfield said in a statement. .

Paxton’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment, made no statement about Schaefer’s request to revise TASB guidance. But this won’t be the first time Paxton has weighed in on whether school officials should tell parents about a child’s gender identity.

In May, Paxton released a non-binding opinion saying schools cannot withhold health information. The opinion was released in response to a request by Rep. Briscoe Kane, R-Deer Park, who argued that providing privacy to students and staff harms parents’ rights to information about their children. In his letter to Paxton, Kane referred to documents that set out how schools should address issues affecting transgender youth.

Disclosure: Equality Texas provides financial support to The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial sponsors play no role in Tribune journalism. Find the complete list them here.

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