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A conservative Christian group is protesting the San Antonio Independent School District’s recent decision to add “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation” to its nondiscrimination policy.
The group, Texas Values, an Austin-based lobbying organization that holds significant sway over lawmakers, has accused the San Antonio ISD of trying to start a “bathroom war” by approving the policy on Aug. 21, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Texas Values has launched a petition in protest of the new policy, calling on the school board to rescind it. The petition regurgitates right-wing claims commonly made about LGBTQ initiatives: that the new “sexuality and bathroom policy” will allow boys to access girls’ showers, locker and bathrooms.
“We believe that San Antonio ISD did not give parents and concerned citizens sufficient notice as the agenda item did not provide adequate detail nor did it give specific reference to these new words that were added to current school policy: ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ and ‘gender expression,'” reads the petition which has gathered over 2300 signatures.
Texas Values also notes that sexual orientation and gender identity are not considered protected classes under Texas state law, adding: “Attempts to add these news words and special legal classifications at the state level have been controversial and unsuccessful.”
But LGBTQ group Equality Texas says Texas Values is lying about the policy in order to get concerned parents worked up over an unrelated issue. Spokeswoman DeAnne Cuellar notes that the nondiscrimination policy does not contain any references to restrooms or locker room usage by transgender students.
Cuellar also says that the school board did not create an entirely new policy, as some have claimed, but simply added additional classes deserving of protection to the existing policy. She notes that the school board added additional protections for students against cyberbullying, which was not explicitly addressed in the old policy.
“The policy that the school district updated does not include any provisions for restrooms or public accommodations,” Cuellar tells Metro Weekly. It doesn’t reflect anything that could be considered creating public accommodations for trans students.”
Leslie Price, chief communications director for the San Antonio ISD, notes that the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression came not from LGBTQ organizations, but a student within the school system who took the initiative on her own to advocate for the policy revisions.
“This policy has nothing to do with use of facilities. Nothing to do with bathrooms, showers or locker rooms. This is not a public accommodations law,” Price tells Metro Weekly. “We want to have a more inclusive policy that ensures that all of our students and employees know that they are respected, and have a right to an educational and work environment free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.”
Under the San Antonio ISD’s current policy, students are required to use facilities that match the gender listed on their birth certificate, though transgender students can request individual accommodations, such as a single-stall facility. Such requests are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, tailored to the individual student’s needs. If a student’s birth certificate has been legally changed to reflect their correct gender identity, they will then be allowed to use the facilities that correspond with that gender designation.
“This is really about providing clarity, via revisions to the previous policy we had,” Price says. “This is about ensuring that all students and employees know they are protected from discrimination. I also want to point out that our policy is in line with other urban school districts across the state, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and Fort Worth.”