SAN ANTONIO—The San Antonio Independent School District amended its nondiscrimination policy to include “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression” just days after a bill that would have prohibited such policies died with the close of the Texas Legislature’s special session Aug. 17.
Supporters of the Privacy Act, House Bill 46, cried foul and “I told you so.” The bill would have rescinded existing school district and municipal sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws and prohibited the creation of new ones. Although passed twice by the Senate—once in the regular session and again in the special session—the bill never made it out of the House State Affairs committee chaired by Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. Speaker of the House Joe Straus, whose district includes part of the San Antonio school district, pledged he would never allow a vote on the bill. Supporters said the bill had the votes to pass the House and Gov. Greg Abbott said he would have signed it. Now pastors and parents are back to fighting SOGI ordinances one city, one school district at a time.
Opponents of SAISD’s new policy accused the school board of intentionally using vague language on the Aug. 21 agenda to avoid drawing attention to—and therefore debate of—the SOGI amendment. The agenda action item read: “Consent Agenda A: Approval of Revisions to Board Policies DIA(LOCAL), FFI(LOCAL), and FFH(LOCAL) nondiscrimination policy.”
Using a consent agenda or consent calendar allows governing bodies, like school boards, to package several routine and noncontroversial items into one vote without debate. Several other items listed under the consent agenda gave brief descriptions of the issue being voted on.
Once the newly approved policy came to light, parents of the 54,000-student district said they felt deceived and took the SAISD school board to task during its Sept. 11 meeting, demanding the policy be rescinded. They argued SOGI policies discriminate against students and staff who hold a biblical view of marriage and human sexuality and open the door to biological boys and girls being forced to share private single-sex facilities with someone of the opposite sex.
“This updated policy does not change how our facilities are used,” Leslie Price, SAISD chief communications officer, told the TEXAN. “If we have a request for special accommodations, we will work with a student on a case-by-case basis to provide a single-occupancy restroom as well as provide private areas for changing and showering, as much as possible.”
But private accommodation allowances are maligned by LGBT activists who push for full access to private facilities based on gender identity.
Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case from a Virginia school district, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., about this issue before President Donald Trump rescinded a Dept. of Education guidance letter that supported the transgender student’s request to use the private facilities that aligned with her gender identity.
“[Lawmakers] are concerned about the impact these policies have particularly when they are rushed through and they are done in a way that the public is not allowed to participate,” Jonathan Saenz, attorney and Texas Values president, said in a press conference prior to the Sept. 11 board meeting. “Regardless of how people feel one way or the other on this issue, we should all agree that the parents and the public and the taxpayers should not be shut out of this process.”