Texas capitol

AUSTIN — Texas Republicans are calling on Attorney General Ken Paxton to review new Texas Association of School Boards guidance about addressing transgender student concerns, calling the document “harmful” and “highly concerning.” 

The association is a taxpayer-funded lobbying group that works on behalf of local Texas school boards. It recently released new guidance for legal issues related to transgender students and how school districts could go about addressing these students’ needs.

Texas Republicans, however, are critical of portions of the guidance that they claim directs school districts to allow transgender girls to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms, as well as refrain from reporting information to parents regarding their child and any display of child dysmorphia.

“This guidance is highly concerning on its merits, and it is even more concerning that it is being distributed to public school districts and may be effectively creating state policy,” state Reps. Bryan Slaton, of Royse City, Brian Harrison, of Midlothian, Tony Tinderholt, of Arlington, and Mark Dorazio, of Shavano Park, said in a letter to Paxton.

 The Texas Freedom Caucus, a coalition of hardline conservatives in the House, also called on Paxton to review the guidance.

“These types of policies have resulted in devastating harm to innocent children,” the caucus said in its letter to Paxton. “We cannot allow that to occur in Texas.”

But the guidance makes no such claim on either of the issues presented.

Instead, it laid out a series of recent legal challenges related to transgender students using certain restroom and locker room facilities. The guidance makes clear that those legal debates and decisions have been made outside the jurisdiction of Texas, but notes that the arguments used in these court cases could be brought against Texas school districts.

The guidance recommends school districts make all accommodations possible due to Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. Should there be no possible resolution, the association advises districts to keep track of all attempts to make accommodations and seek legal guidance.

On the claim that school staff should keep information of gender-nonconforming students from parents, the guidance states the opposite.

The association said that under federal law, parents have a right to access their minor students’ education records. Additionally, it notes that the Texas Education Code gives parents the right to full information about their child’s school activities, adding that “employees who encourage or coerce a child to withhold information from the child’s parent may be subject to discipline.”

As it pertains to a student requesting school officials not disclose to their parents that they are transgender, the guidance states that school officials should “proceed with caution,” but include parents in decisions or accommodations made.

“Ultimately, the best advice is to assess each situation as it comes, working closely with the student, parents and district counsel to reach a resolution that protects the learning environment for all,” it states.

TASB Deputy Executive Director Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield said in a statement that the Republican lawmakers' accusations were misleading, adding that there is no portion of the document that tells districts to allow males to enter female restrooms or locker rooms, or direct or advise districts to subvert parental rights on preferred pronouns and gender identity.

"Our goal in developing these FAQs is to help school districts avoid running afoul of federal and state laws that can prompt costly lawsuits and discrimination claims," Dunne-Oldfield said. "To be clear, TASB’s summary of the law is just that – a summary that always includes the disclaimer that school districts should consult their own attorneys and consider each issue on a case-by-case basis."

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to inquiries on whether it will review the guidance.

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