The Obama administration says public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with the gender they identify with.
The sweeping directive comes amid clashes on the issue across the country, including one between the Texas lieutenant governor and the Fort Worth ISD superintendent.
Nationwide Friday districts will get a letter about the new formal guidance from the United States Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Federal officials say it’s not legally binding, but does threaten lawsuits or loss of federal aid.
At the Texas Republican Convention in Dallas, Gov. Greg Abbott said he’ll work to oppose the directive. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who earlier this week called for the resignation of the Fort Worth superintendent for that district’s policies, said Texas would rather do without federal funding than comply.
“He can keep his 30 pieces of silver,” he said during a press conference Friday morning. “We will not be blackmailed. He’s threatening to take money from the poorest.”
Texas current receives about $10 billion under a federal free lunch program, but Patrick said the state would find a way to make up that money somehow.
Patrick called the transgender bathroom issue the biggest issue since prayer was taken out of schools. He encouraged Texas school districts not to enact the policy.
“This is not law. It’s a recommendation with a threat,” he said.
Most Texas Republicans promise not to let the issue die.
“It seems like massive overreach, especially considering how divisive it is right now,” said Leighton Berridge, a Republican from Southlake.
“That’s the kind of thing that Obama does that doesn’t make any sense,” added Donna Harp, a Republican from Austin. “It’s just inappropriate.”
But Miguel Solis, a Dallas ISD school board trustee, issued a statement in support of the policy. He called it “a validation of school boards that have passed non-discrimination policies and superintendents that created guidelines to match them.”
He added that the “bold stance the Fort Worth ISD and administration recently took caught the eye of the nation and we as a society are better because of this.”
The issue is already in the federal courts because of a lawsuit between the state of North Carolina and the Department of Justice.