Metro Weekly

Texas School Board Adopts “Don’t Say Trans” Policies

Policy bars talk of LGBTQ issues and gender-affirming pronouns, restricts restroom access, and calls for censorship of books.

A Texas school district has adopted a slew of policies aimed at discouraging transgender youth from identifying openly as trans, and barring school administrators from acknowledging any gender identity other than what matches their assigned sex at birth.

On August 22, the school board of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) passed a number of policies for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year on a string of narrow 4-3 votes, reports the Texas Observer.

The Observer notes that the conservative majority on the board received significant funding from conservative political action committees that were established to support candidates seeking to advance a right-wing political agenda — including hostility to LGBTQ policies.

The new GCISD policies approved by the board explicitly ban teachers, or any employee of the district, from talking about “gender fluidity” in schools.

As defined by the 36-page document outlining the proposed policies, gender fluidity means “any theory or ideology that (1) espouses the view that biological sex is merely a social construct, (2) espouses the view that it is possible for a person to be any gender or none (i.e. non-binary) based solely on that person’s feelings or preferences, or (3) espouses the view that an individual’s biological sex should be changed to ‘match’ a self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex.”

According to The Dallas Morning News, under the new policies, discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity may not be addressed, even in passing, until after fifth grade. Teachers are barred from using students’ preferred pronouns, even if their parents consent. Finally, students are barred from using multi-occupancy restrooms and changing rooms that do not match their assigned sex at birth, although students can request alternative accommodations, such as a single-stall bathroom.

The new policy also prohibits any “equity audits” from being performed in the district, and limits what books can be in the schools by banning anything deemed by the board to be “inappropriate material.”

The definition of what constitutes “inappropriate” is defined as “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors,” but critics say it will overwhelmingly target books with LGBTQ themes or characters.

The policy also bans the teaching of anything connected to critical race theory, a college-level concept that acknowledges systemic racism, which critics have claimed is being weaponized to make white students feel guilty or ashamed about their race.

Supporters of the policy argued that this would ensure the district is in compliance with a state ban on teaching the topic in public schools.

Prior to the passage, the school board held an extended public comment period, during which over 200 people signed up to speak on the issue — a record for the district.

The crowd was comprised of anti-LGBTQ activists, including individuals with the True Texas Project, a prominent right-wing political group, pro-LGBTQ activists, and LGBTQ alumni and current students.

The discussion leading up to the vote was intense, both sides passionate about illustrating their arguments, with conservative, anti-LGBTQ speakers lobbing inflammatory insults at those who support the LGBTQ community, going on homophobic rants, and calling them “pedos.”

No conservatives were penalized for their conduct, but, at one point, an individual who clapped after comments criticizing the policies was kicked out by the board president.

LGBTQ locals also made personal speeches during the public comment period opposing the board’s policies, which they claim are discriminatory.

But one of the more compelling speeches came from an LGBTQ student who said they had transferred to another district this year “because of the culture of fear you continue to create.”

The student explained that they still have other friends who are LGBTQ who attend school in the district, and will be affected by those policies.

“The policies you are proposing are putting them in danger,” they said. “So, what are we afraid of? No, let me rephrase. What are you afraid of?”

Four days after the board approved the policies, students at Grapevine High School staged a walkout to protest the policy that gags teachers from addressing issues like race, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

According to The Hill, the students walked out of their classrooms, waving a large Progress Pride flag and carrying poster board signs reading “Equality in education for all!” and “You can’t erase history,” and chanting: “Protect our rights!” and “Protect trans kids!”

Grapevine High School Principal Alex Fingers wrote in an email to families that all students who participated in the walkout will receive an unexcused absence, reports The Dallas Morning News.

“I have encouraged our staff to provide a listening ear to students who want to discuss recent events in our district,” Fingers wrote. “Our counselors and administrative team are also ready to have these conversations with students.”

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