Some state representatives have asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to review the Texas Association of School Boards’ legal guidance to districts regarding transgender issues and to offer his own recommendations to school districts.
The association, known as TASB, advocated for policies that prohibit discrimination against transgender students and create remedial steps to investigate and respond to any issues.
The letter from Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, and three other state representatives asks Paxton to identify legislative changes that protect parental rights and “reflect the values of Texas voters.”
The guidance isn’t new and the school board association wrote it in response to multiple questions from Texas school officials asking about how to respond to transgender students, according to the association.
In Slaton’s Monday letter to Paxton, he claims the association’s guidance is “radically pro-transgender.”
Because the association distributed the guidance to public school districts, the document “may effectively be creating state policy,” Slaton said in the letter.
Slaton was concerned specifically that the document encouraged “school districts to refrain from reporting child abuse and obscure information regarding children exhibiting gender dysphoria from their parents,” he said in the letter.
Slaton also took issue with transgender children using a bathroom that matches their gender identity, he said.
Reps. Brian Harrison, R-Waxahachie, Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, and Mark Dorazio, R-San Antonio, also signed the letter.
TASB is a nonprofit that represents and provides training to school boards. The legal guidance has been on the association’s website since 2016 and was updated recently, said Joy Baskins, educational counsel with TASB.
The 13-page documents answers questions such as whether a student has the right to be recognized as transgender at school and whether a school should change its records to use a student’s preferred name and gender.
The document notes that “a district’s refusal to allow a transgender student to use the restroom according to the student’s gender identity as an example of sex-based discrimination.”
The document also advises districts to proceed with caution in cases in which parents don’t agree with a student’s gender identity.
“Texas educators typically work with parents to decide on appropriate accommodations for transgender students,” according to TASB’s guidance. “Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that transgender students are at particular risk of harm, including self-harm, when a parent disagrees with the student’s gender identity.”
The association offers legal guidance to school districts on hundreds of topics, including questions about transgender issues, Baskins said.
TASB developed its guidance in 2016 after multiple districts reached out to the group for help, she said.
“It’s a real challenge for Texas public school districts to understand the connections between federal guidance and state guidance on these issues,” Baskins said. “School districts will have to balance whatever comes from the state with their preexisting obligations under federal law.”
The association doesn’t have any regulatory authority and isn’t a governmental entity, Baskins said. “It’s really just put through as food for thought,” she said.
Slaton’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The role school districts have in making local policies regarding transgender students is likely to be debated this legislative session.
The conservative Texas Freedom Caucus, made up of state representatives, released a letter Tuesday backing Slaton’s concerns.
“The guidance allows school districts to subvert parental rights by granting discretion to educators on whether to report a child’s gender dysphoria,” according to its letter.
Slaton has filed House Bill 42, which defines gender-affirming care as child abuse. Harrison has filed HB 1029, which would prohibit any state funds from benefiting gender-affirming care. Other lawmakers have filed bills that would prohibit school districts from withholding from parents any information about a student’s health and restrict school’s ability to provide instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation.