Along with North Carolina, the state of Texas has vehemently opposed to President Obama’s directive demanding public schools grant transgender access to the bathroom of their choice. Gov. Greg Abbott compared the executive order, which he characterized as the president trying to rewrite the Civil Rights Act, to the moon landing — thereby attracting the Internet’s best jokes. Things took a far more serious turn when a U.S. district judge in Texas blocked Obama’s declaration in August. Now, a member of the State Senate wants to impose legislation that could make the situation much worse for LGBT students.
According to the San Antonio Current, Sen. Konni Burton of the Dallas/Fort Worth area proposed a new bill that, if interpreted a certain way, would require teachers to tell their LGBT students’ parents about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Burton herself characterized SB 242 as a response to the “new guidelines for transgender students” issued by Fort Worth Independent School District in accordance with Obama’s directive:
“[This bill makes] make it unequivocally clear that a parent has a right to full and total information on their child’s academic performance, physical, mental and emotional health, and more. Further, my legislation will make it expressly against state law for a district to adopt policies designed to undermine a parent’s right to know. No parent in Texas should ever have to fight for the basic right to matter in their child’s life again.”
Per Burton and her allies, the central issue isn’t the right of transgender students to use the bathroom they prefer, but what information their parents are entitled to. A significant portion of the ISD’s guidelines (and the White House declaration they hinged upon) concerned these students’ right to privacy for reasons of safety, thereby disallowing educators from telling parents or guardians about their children’s gender identity.
Unsurprisingly, members of Equality Texas — a pro-LGBT organization in the state — disagree:
“What she’s proposed would destroy any productive communication between a student and a school counselor,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “It would take away a counselor’s ability to do their job.”
Or as Steve Rudner, Equality Texas’ board chair, bluntly phrased it: “If your kid is gay, and can tell his teacher, but hasn’t told you, then you are the problem.”
Following the viral attention the Current‘s article drew to SB 242, Burton wrote another response to what she called “great deal of misinformation” on her website. The state senator cited current legislation, which “[includes] full access to attendance records, test scores, grades, disciplinary records, counseling records, psychological records, applications for admission, health and immunization information, teacher and school counselor evaluations, and reports of behavioral patterns.” Since all of this is already on the books, Burton argued, LGBT students’ parents have a right to know what their children have confided in their teachers or counselors.
Understandably, Smith and his Equality Texas associates dissent. “Until children stop being beaten up for being gay or being kicked out of their home for being gay,” he told the Current, “we have a responsibility to protect them.”
(Via San Antonio Current)