Texas Superintendent Refuses Lt. Gov.'s Call to Resign Over Transgender Bathroom Policy

by | May 11, 2016

By Diane Smith and Lee Williams

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick continued his attack on Fort Worth school leader Kent Scribner over his transgender bathroom policy, saying the superintendent is not a "social engineer" and should focus on education.

Speaking at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Patrick said he was in Fort Worth to explain why he thinks Scribner should resign, calling the controversial bathroom policy "ill-advised."

Before Patrick spoke, former Fort Worth councilman Joel Burns said Patrick is "out of bounds" for "picking a fight" with the Fort Worth school district over the policy.

Burns, a nationally recognized anti-bullying advocate, accused Patrick of "coming here to cause" problems after asking Scribner to resign on Monday.

Both Burns and Patrick spoke at the Fort Worth school district administration building, where supporters on both sides of the issue were in place. As a regularly scheduled school board meeting began, Scribner walked in to a round of applause.

The line to address the board stretched outside the administration buidling.

Burns said the Fort Worth school district has been doing just fine without Patrick interfering and that "I'm proud of the work Dr. Scribner and the entire school board has done."

Patrick, however, said Scribner needs to be focused on educating Fort Worth's students and that "this policy does nothing does nothing ... to help students" prepare for their careers.

Earlier Tuesday, Scribner said he will not resign over the guidelines he implemented last month for transgender students.

"I respect the lieutenant governor's opinion, but I just don't agree with it," Scribner told the Star-Telegram's editorial board.

Scribner said he was proud of the guidelines that created a "an open and safe and respectful" environment for students.

"I think they provide educators with the ability to make all students more comfortable and confident in a learning environment," Scribner said. "... Children shouldn't have to wait for their schools to feel safe and full of respect."

The issue has been a hot topic on social media since Patrick made his comments on Monday and other groups and individuals sent out a flurry of emails on Tuesday, voicing their opinions.

The Rev. J. Scott Mayer, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, criticized Patrick for interfering with the school district.

"I urge the Fort Worth school board and its superintendent to remain strong in the face of this fear-mongering as they work for the welfare of all our children," Mayer said in a statement.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to school board President Jacinto Ramos, stating he had legal concerns about the guidelines.

"I have strong concern that this policy violates provisions in the Texas Education Code that give parents an unequivocal right to information regarding their children and is motivated by a misguided view of federal law," Paxton wrote. "I sincerely hope you will assess these deficiencies in the transgender policy and more as the board deliberates."

The guidelines allow that students have access to restrooms consistent with "the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts." They also call on school officials to offer transgender students access to a single-stall restroom or the opportunity to use a restroom when no other students are present.

In a prepared statement late Monday, Patrick said that Scribner had placed his "own personal political agenda ahead of the more than 86,000 students attending 146 schools in the district. ... Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position.

"Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged," Patrick said. "I call upon the parents within the Fort Worth ISD to take immediate steps to repeal this stealthy scheme and remove Dr. Scribner from his post."

The Fort Worth school district has had policies in place for years to support "the inclusion of transgender students," said Michael Steinert, assistant superintendent of support services for the Fort Worth school district.

He said the guidelines simply put the policies in writing.

Just last week, campus staff provided a single-use bathroom to a transgender student to accommodate the student's needs, Steinert said. Usually, that bathroom is located in the school nurse's office, he said. The issue comes up about once a year, Steinert said.

Staff writer Yamil Berard contributed to this report, which contains information from Star-Telegram archives.

(c)2016 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram