Schools, elected officials react to federal guidance on transgender students civil rights

Schools, elected officials  react to federal guidance on transgender students civil rights
Posted at 7:45 PM, May 13, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:16-04

Officials from at least one school district in Central Texas don’t anticipate policy changes after a joint guidance was released regarding transgender students civil rights in public schools.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Education guidance states under Title IX a school must treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or ID indicate a different sex. In addition, schools must allow transgender students access to the restroom and locker room consistent with their gender identity. 

However, the letter states the guidance doesn’t impose legal requirements but it clarifies expectations for schools getting federal funding. 

“[It] provides information and examples to inform recipients about how the Departments evaluate whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations,” stated the letter.

The departments mentioned as a condition of receiving federal funds, Title IX regulations indicate a school should not exclude, deny benefits or treat differently on the basis of sex of the student. Under Title IX a student’s gender identity is treated as the student’s sex.

Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said the guidelines are a restatement of the DOE’s current position but it doesn’t introduce any new laws.

"This hasn't changed anything. This is just a restatement of what we're doing. They have no requirements,” said Dr. Cain. “They need to get specific. Right now this is a just shot over the bow."

She emphasized the district treats every student with respect.  

“If the federal government would just let the school districts do what they’re doing. I do not believe there is a school district in Central Texas that wouldn't provide for that child whether is a gender issue or not, said Cain. If they just say I'm really uncomfortable here, we would do what we can make certain that child is not uncomfortable.”

Cain said the issue has not come up so the board of trustees has not discussed it. However, they have made accommodations for students who may need additional privacy when going to the restroom, such as using the bathroom in the nurse’s office.

The superintendent said WISD has and will continue to follow all laws.

"If and when the DOE provides additional guidance, WISD will review its rights and responsibilities as a school district as that guidance relates to educating students."

Discussions regarding modifications to  current procedures would take place at publicly held meetings. Before adopting a policy, the WISD Board of Trustees would take into consideration parent input and  recommendations from committees at WISD  comprised of parents and teachers.

Below you can find statements from other school districts in Central Texas.

“We just got wind of this. Neither the school board nor I know of any transgender requests in TISD at this time. Based upon what I know now, this would be a court decision and not a local one. We will follow the law but not set precedent,” said Temple ISD Superintendent Dr. Robin Battershell.

“Killeen ISD remains focused on doing what is in the best interests of all of our students and families we proudly serve, in good faith,” said Killeen ISD Superintendent Dr. John Craft.

"We want our schools to be a place where every student can focus on learning. As a result, whenever a student or a parent has a question or concern, our campus principal works with them to find the best solution for that student," said Belton ISD Spokesman Kyle DeBeer. "The process is the same regardless of the issue."

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said on Friday the state is ready to forego billions in federal funding before President Barack Obama's administration can dictate the restroom policy. 

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) also voiced his opposition during the State's GOP convention.

"What the President needs to do is to focus on his job," said Cornyn. "His job is not to intervene in state and local affairs."

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