Fort Worth ISD alters transgender policy, will notify parents earlier

A Texas school district that triggered a passionate debate when it announced restroom guidelines for transgender students pledged Wednesday to work more closely with parents on matters affecting LGBT children.

Fort Worth Superintendent Kent Scribner said Wednesday that transgender guidelines have been condensed and that each student will be handled on a "case-by-case basis."

Earlier guidelines announced in April noted that transitioning to a different gender is a private matter and that students could choose whether to have their parents involved. The policy said informing a parent could carry risks for a child who may be punished.

"The new guidelines squarely involve parents, unless it would prove harmful to the child," Scribner said, adding that it now "defaults" to bringing parents into the fold earlier.

The revision came after a series of community meetings where "it was clear there was much misinformation and misunderstanding about this policy," Scribner said.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton last month issued a non-binding opinion suggesting Fort Worth schools were violating Texas law with the restroom guidelines.

He had claimed that Texas' sixth-largest school district relegated "parents to a subordinate status" since the policy was created without their proper input or consent. Paxton, a Republican, had argued the guidelines violated state education code.

His opinion was sought by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican who had unsuccessfully demanded Scribner's resignation.

But Paxton in a statement Wednesday praised the revision, saying it "complies with state law and my recent attorney general opinion."

"This guideline now allows school officials to consider the needs of students and their families on a case-by-case basis while considering the health and safety of all students," Paxton said.

Patrick said in a statement: "Today's decision by the Fort Worth Independent School District is a victory for parents' rights and student safety. I am pleased the FWISD superintendent and school board have listened to parents in the school district and pulled down their existing transgender policy."

Texas remains part of an 11-state lawsuit that accuses the federal government of turning schools into "laboratories for a massive social experiment." The suit is in response to President Barack Obama's earlier directive to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The Fort Worth policy allows transgender students access to single-stall restrooms. Alternatively, they can use restrooms when other students aren't around. But a student can't unilaterally decide which restroom to use; an administrator, parents and others must be consulted.

Scribner on Wednesday defended the district against claims it was making special accommodations for a class of students. When it comes to bathrooms, special arrangements are made for students who are obese, incontinent or have anxiety, he said.

"At the core this is an anti-bullying policy," he said. "I'm an educator and not an activist. This is about protecting students from bullying so that we focus on the business of teaching and learning."