Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has stepped up Texas’ campaign against transgender students. Following the multi-state lawsuit Texas filed against the federal government last week, Patrick is now working to make sure transgender students in Texas receive no accommodations at school in the meantime.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Patrick announced that he will explicitly oppose the Obama administration’s guidance urging schools to respect trans students’ identities. “I will be sending a letter to every superintendent in the state of Texas,” he said, “letting them know that they should not move forward on the President’s guidelines.”
Moreover, Patrick is actually hoping to force schools to defy the guidance. He also announced that he is asking Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) — who filed the lawsuit against the federal government — to review whether Fort Worth Independent School District’s trans-inclusive policy violates state law.
— Mark Wiggins (@MarkWigginsTX) May 31, 2016
In April, Fort Worth ISD introduced new guidelines for accommodating transgender students — guidelines that simply reflect the fact that the district has included “gender identity” in its nondiscrimination policy since 2011. Patrick inserted himself into the kerfuffle that followed in what now appears to be an attempt to make an example of the district. He originally called for the superintendent to resign, accusing him of having “lost his focus and thereby his ability to lead.” That didn’t work, which is probably why he’s now involving Paxton’s office.
Given Paxton’s previously expressed opposition to transgender rights, it’s not surprising that Stand for Fort Worth, a group that opposes the district’s policy, is convinced it’ll be overturned. “It is now inevitable that this transgender policy will be struck down,” they said in a statement, “whether it be through legal remedies or by the action of the Fort Worth ISD.”
There’s a clear contradiction in Patrick’s arguments. He is alleging that the federal guidance on respecting trans students’ identities is “a violation of local control,” but he is perfectly content mandating state control of schools that rejects trans students’ identities. His request to Paxton implies that he believes that trans-inclusive policies are somehow already a violation of state law, but if they’re not, he’ll work to change that. “We’re not going to go in here and involve ourselves in every issue in a school district,” Patrick said. “If a superintendent breaks the law and the school board doesn’t act, the legislature will act.”
Advocates for trans students rallied outside the Texas Capitol during his press conference. Ann Elder, the mother of a 10-year-old trans child in the Houston area, called out Patrick for targeting her child. “You, specifically you, are endangering my child’s life,” she said. “You have now told everyone in the state of Texas it is OK to harass my child.”
The press conference was revealing in terms of how little Patrick actually knows about trans people.
— Mary Tuma (@TumaTime) May 31, 2016
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) May 31, 2016
He told reporters that “this fight is just the beginning.” It remains to be seen if he’ll ever actually meet a member of the community against which he’s waging war.