Civil rights investigations into Frisco, Keller schools searched over bathrooms and books

North Texas schools implementing policies that will harm LGBTQ children must be investigated, the ACLU of Texas said in federal civil rights complaints filed Monday evening.

The ACLU’s attorneys – along with several other advocacy groups – want the Office of Civil Rights to investigate Keller ISD for its new policy prohibiting books about gender fluidity and Frisco ISD for its policy restricting bathroom usage to facilities that align with a person’s biological sex.

Both policies, approved by trustees earlier this month, drew outcry from LGBTQ advocates. The ACLU argues that the districts’ actions violate federal law and harm vulnerable students, according to letters sent to federal officials on Monday.

Frisco officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Keller’s spokesperson Bryce Nieman said the district is closed for the holiday this week and so officials have not seen a copy of the complaint.

Should the Office of Civil Rights open investigations, it could take months or even years to reach resolutions.

If the office finds a civil rights violation, it would work to negotiate a “voluntary resolution agreement.” Federal officials would then monitor how those steps were implemented over time.

“We very much hope that the Office of Civil Rights will quickly open an investigation and take all necessary remedial steps,” said Kate Huddleston, an attorney with the ACLU of Texas.

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Keller books

The Keller school board recently approved a policy prohibiting library books across all grade levels that refer to gender fluidity.

The policy defines gender fluidity as promoting the idea that it is possible for a person to be non-binary. It also applies the term to any support of therapies that alter a person’s body to match their “self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex,” as determined by their birth certificate.

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KISD board president Charles Randklev has said the guidelines are to “protect children from sexually-explicit, age-inappropriate instructional materials.”

The ACLU of Texas argues that the policy “seeks to erase transgender and non-binary identities.”

“The policy is discriminatory on its face,” the groups’ letter reads. “It seeks to suppress, in Keller ISD libraries, all access to information that it is possible for a person to be transgender or non-binary.”

The group also cited previous book examples the district removed from shelves – which centered around LGBTQ characters – as indications of animus, along with statements made by trustees in support of the policy.

Rules targeting transgender and non-binary students are increasingly being proposed across Texas and will likely be a focus of the Legislature.

ACLU of Texas attorney Chloe Kempf said transgender and nonbinary youth are facing obstacles when it comes to access to sports, books, bathrooms and healthcare.

“This is a time of real hostility,” Kempf said.

Frisco bathrooms

The new rules codified by Frisco trustees earlier this month state that each of the district’s multiple-occupancy bathrooms “shall be designated for and used only by persons based on the person’s biological sex.”

It notes that the policy allows for different accommodations upon a family’s request.

Frisco ISD now has a bathroom use policy for transgender students

The ACLU of Texas is arguing that the rules amount to sex discrimination against transgender and non-binary students in violation of federal law. Absent intervention, they say, the policy will trigger harm against those children and invade their privacy.

“When transgender students are excluded from using facilities that match who they are and are separated from all other students, the mental health outcomes can be catastrophic,” the complaint reads.

In a statement after the policy passed, Frisco schools spokesperson Meghan Cone wrote that it was consistent with the district’s current practices.

“Transgender students and their families may continue to request an accommodation if a student is uncomfortable using a private bathroom,” she said in an email.

At a heated board meeting earlier this fall, Frisco officials shared that, out of around 40,000 secondary students, fewer than 50 have asked for a bathroom accommodation.

“To our knowledge, transgender students have never harmed another student,” said Erin Miller, chief student services officer.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and the University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.

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