Ken Paxton Lays Out Case Against Fort Worth ISD Bathroom Regulations

In an opinion issued late Tuesday afternoon, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says Fort Worth ISD's attempt to let all students use a restroom consistent with their gender identity is likely illegal. Paxton was asked for the opinion in May by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, an outspoken opponent of letting transgender children use either bathroom.

Paxton's opinion isn't legally binding, it just represents his view of how Texas courts would handle the case were it to come before them. Paxton's contention that the Fort Worth ISD guidelines violate state law hinges on the following statements from the district's guidelines:

"In most cases, transitioning is a very private matter. Students may choose whether or not to have their parents participate in this process .... Prior to notifying any parent or guardian regarding the student's gender identity or any potential transition process, school personnel must work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the parent or guardian has been or will be involved in the process."
The attorney general says that the district's policy of not immediately involving the parents of a student who expresses a desire to change their gender identity violates the Texas Education Code, which requires that parents "must have access to all written records of a school district concerning their child."

Additionally, Paxton says, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner likely overstepped his authority when he established the administrative guidelines without debate from the school board — the board's president Jacinto Ramos said in May he supports the guidelines.

Shortly after Patrick launched an initial verbal fusillade against Scribner, the Obama administration issued guidelines requiring that schools across the country receiving federal education funding allow trans kids to use the bathroom in which they feel safest. Patrick has since urged Texas schools to ignore the directive and threatened to forego the $5 billion in federal funding Texas schools currently receive each year.

Paxton, for his part, sued the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of North Texas' Harrold ISD over the regulations.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young