Parents and politicians were converging on Fort Worth ISD headquarters Tuesday evening after a controversy erupted over the superintendent's recently added gender and bathroom guidelines.
The guidelines added to the district's policy two weeks ago allows students to use the restroom with the gender they identify. Also, administrators are instructed to call students "students or scholars" rather than boys and girls.
Some parents said they were angry there were no public hearings or meetings with parents during the creation of the guidelines.
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called for new Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner to resign on Monday and told reporters before Tuesday’s meeting the Scribner’s job isn’t to be a social engineer.
“This policy does nothing to improve a student's chance of graduating,” Patrick said, adding the policy was against state law.
Joel Burns, a former Fort Worth city council member, criticized Patrick for his vocal opposition to changes. Burns, openly gay, is an anti-bullying and suicide prevention advocate.
Burns said Patrick’s call for the superintendent’s ouster was harmful grandstanding.
“I'm speaking out again today against bullying,” Burns said. “Unfortunately the bully today is not some schoolyard punk, it's our very own Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. He's not here to listen or to learn, but get cheap political points.”
It was a packed house at Tuesday night’s school board meeting as supporters and critics spoke their minds about the new guidelines.
“Policies such as these let students know that you respect them as a student and as an individual,” said one parent.
“The superintendent has yet to show there’s a problem with this district on this issue,” said another parent.
When Burns wrapped up his comments and the board tried to move on to other business, the meeting got out of hand.
“Hey, I let you guys speak when you were talking and I’m going to ask you to do the same,” Burns told the crowd.
Several people in the crowd then started yelling “time” and clapped as he finally walked away from the podium.
“I am proud of the guidelines we’ve developed, “said Scribner. “And I’m proud that we’re able to support this policy to provide our educators with a framework to make all students, whether they are transgender or not, make them feel comfortable and confident in the learning environment.”
The district policy regarding student welfare and non-discrimination is about two years old, but new guidelines concerning transgender students were announced by Scribner at the meeting on April 26.