Attorney General issues opinion on Fort Worth ISD transgender guidelines.

When the superintendent of Fort Worth ISD issued administrative guidelines pertaining to transgender students he opened up a political can of worms. The Lieutenant Governor held a press conference in Fort Worth demanding that the superintendent resign. He has not. Mr. Patrick then requested an opinion from the Attorney General about the legality of the transgender guidelines. On June 28th, Ken Paxton issued Opinion KP-100.

The Opinion does not weigh in on the issue of which bathroom transgender students are to use. Instead, the focus is on how much information should be given to parents. Citing Chapter 26 of the Education Code and its strong provisions for treating parents as “partners with educators” Mr. Paxton opined that the Fort Worth guidelines violated this Chapter. Key Quotes:

Far from creating a partnership between parents, educators, and administrators regarding their children’s education, the Guidelines relegate parents to a subordinate status, receiving information only on a “need-to-know” basis.

Thus, to the extent that the Guidelines limit parental access to information about a parent’s child and operate to encourage students to withhold information from their parents, they violate Chapter 26 of the Education Code.

Fort Worth administrators were aware of this problem with the Guidelines, as they indicated in their brief to the A.G. that parental access issues would be “clarified.” Subsequent to the issuance of the A.G. Opinion the district made changes to more fully involve parents.

On a second issue, the Attorney General did not say that the superintendent lacked the authority to issue guidelines without board approval. But he did say that any such guidelines must be aligned with board policy. Key Quote:

While the superintendent has characterized these regulations as Guidelines that “are in alignment with Board Policy FFH (Local),” decisions to withhold information from a parent regarding a student’s gender identity or suggest that employees might work with a student to restrict parental involvement are in fact significant and controversial matters of policy that do not appear to have previously addressed by the FWISD board of trustees.

I take that to mean that the A.G. thinks the Guidelines do not align with board policy. This does not mean that superintendents cannot adopt guidelines about controversial issues—it just means that any such guidelines must align with state law and board policy.

One of my law partners made the observation that we seem to have more lawyers (and politicians) working on the issue of transgender students than we have transgender students. That may be so. So let us all keep calm and carry on, providing safety, privacy and security to all students.


File this one under: STUDENTS