Patrick and Paxton's Swipes at Local Bathroom Control Aren't Good for Dallas, Either

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick showed up at the Fort Worth ISD school board meeting Tuesday night to stand in the proverbial bathroom door. Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton discovered this week that the district, in a purely administrative move made in April, clarified that students at the district were free to use the restroom consistent with the gender with which they identified.

For this, Patrick demanded Monday that Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Ken Scribner step down. Despite Patrick's purported belief in public school reform, Scribner, the reformer for which Fort Worth searched for two years before hiring September, has got to go because he wants trans kids to feel safe in the toilet.

“Without any discussion with parents, board members, principals, and other community leaders, Dr. Scribner’s unilateral action, underscores this lack of fitness to hold his position as superintendent," Patrick said Monday. "Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position. Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged."

Tuesday, Paxton sent a letter to school board president Jacinto Ramos decrying the regulations — which, again, were clarified weeks ago — and claiming that the district was misinterpreting Title IX, which protects those attending school from discrimination. Ramos, in a prepared statement issued Tuesday, said that Texas' statewide leadership should keep its nose out of local business.

"Rest assured, the safety of ALL children is our highest priority on the Board," Ramos said. "We are completely capable of handling this in Fort Worth. We are applying the existing policy to make sure ALL children feel safe at school. We are here to look out for ALL children; not some, not most, but ALL children."

In Dallas, Dallas ISD school board member and former Dallas ISD President Miguel Solis took to Twitter to lambaste Patrick's local control hypocrisy. "I can't wrap my mind around the hypocrisy of a lieutenant governor who, even prior to becoming lieutenant governor as a state senator, has spoken in support of the concept of education reform, the concept of local control, the concept of stability for large urban school systems in the leadership," Solis says. "The second that an ed reform, six-month-on-the-job superintendent takes his own local control and refines regulations that align with a policy passed by the school board two years ago and it doesn't align with [Patrick's] political agenda, then the lieutenant governor wants [Scribner] fired. It's absurd."

Patrick is just taking advantage of the political moment, Solis says, in an attempt to undermine a policy that is similar to the one used by Dallas ISD as well as in districts across the state and across the country.

"When you have a politician extremely removed from local governance the nuance gets lost," Solis says. "There are nondiscrimination policies that have been passed by tons of school districts, not just in the state of Texas, around the country. When a policy is passed by a board, it's passed with broad language, which speaks to the balance that has to be found between government and management. You don't pass policies with specifics, because the specifics are what the administration is tasked with creating and implementing."

By getting involved in Fort Worth ISD's local business, Solis says, Patrick threatens every district in the state.

"What is to stop the lieutenant governor from identifying more superintendents, more cities, more city councils and more county officials who determine that their local context calls for a particular change that may not agree with the lieutenant governor's political agenda — what's to prevent them from being targeted?" 
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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