A dispute over a Dripping Springs ISD bathroom accommodation allowing a transgender male student at Walnut Springs Elementary to use female facilities continued during public forum at Monday’s board of trustees meeting.
Although the item was not up for discussion on the agenda, various members of the community gathered to express their opinions on the decision to allow the transgender student the ability to utilize the facility of their choosing.
Multiple parents spoke out against the accommodation. One concerned parent said their rights as parents “had been violated and neglected by the school board, who passed this policy without any open discussion.”
“Parents were deprived of the opportunity to have this conversation with their children at their home,” one mother of three DSISD students said. “Students that were confused about the transition were left without parental guidance to help them understand why the change happened.”
Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of the Texas Values group, approached the board arguing against the accommodation as well, citing various examples of past issues with transgender bathrooms in the state that created controversy.
“This is not the first time this issue has come up in the state of Texas. It’s been voted on in Houston; that policy went down 61-39,” Saenz said. “It was repealed in Fort Worth after the school district got itself in some trouble by violating state law.”
However, a few community members spoke in favor of the school board’s decision, stating that “[they]applauded the way the district has handled the issue,” and “wished that there was more focus on safety in regards to transportation,” specifically reducing the speed limit near Hwy 290.
While the accommodation, which was made back in September, has been met with controversy, DSISD Communications Director Dale Whitaker said it’s not a “blanket policy that applies to the whole district.”
“[DSISD] reviews these on a case-by-case basis, looking at the age of the student, the campus, and other factors before granting an accommodation,” Whitaker stated.
As for the lack of communication about the accommodation on the part of DSISD, Whitaker said making such information known to the public would be a violation of federal law.
“It’s part of (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). A district can’t talk about individual kids receiving accommodations. Accommodations fall under a large umbrella of difference issues, such as special education,” said Whitaker.
FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
“If a student were receiving dyslexia services, we wouldn’t be able to share information on that student to the public,” said Whitaker. “The misconception that created the fighting is that ‘[DSISD] has changed their policy.’ That’s not true. It’s an accommodation.”