Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick will reportedly be writing a letter this week to advise the state’s 1,200 school districts not to follow the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender students.
At the Texas State Capitol Tuesday Patrick claimed that the Obama policies “do not have the force of law,” as the Dallas Observer reports. “The president’s threat of withholding federal funds is just a threat,” he said. “By standing together, we will demonstrate Texas will not be threatened or blackmailed by a policy that doesn’t make sense and puts our girls and women at risk.
“This fight is just beginning,” Patrick told reporters at the Capitol. The lieutenant governor further took aim during his address, saying, “When we have a rogue, runaway superintendent, and a rogue, runaway school board, then the Legislature this upcoming session is going to have to look at this issue."
The guidance issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice detailed guidelines explaining the obligations that schools receiving public funding have to their transgender students.
These obligations include respecting the gender identity of transgender students by using the student’s preferred name and pronouns, and ensuring them access to sports teams, educational opportunities, and sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity, according to a letter sent Friday to public K-12 schools nationwide, as well as to colleges and universities that receive federal funding.
In continuing to oppose the Obama guidelines, Patrick and his state stand to lose billions of dollars in federal funding each year.
But as the lieutenant governor has previously stated, the Lone Star State will figure out how to make do without what he has called the “president’s 30 pieces of silver.” ‘‘The people of Texas and the Legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to,” Patrick told the Associated Press. He declined to state how much funding the state would need to cover to break even.
But if Patrick is asking Texas to pinch pennies in the name of anti-trans discrimination, the issue may be that the state’s schools are already getting little to no help from their government. “More than half the state’s 1,200 school districts lost a major lawsuit that claimed Texas unconstitutionally underfunds public schools,” the AP reports.
Many, including the parents of trans students, showed up Tuesday to oppose the lieutenant governor’s remarks.
“I'm here to tell Dan Patrick: You — specifically you — are endangering my child's life,” said Ann Elder, the mother of a transgender boy, outside the Capitol on Tuesday, reports the Texas Tribune. “Because you have now told everyone in the state of Texas that it's OK to harass my child, that it's OK for the school district to stop supporting them.”
On March 26, the Fort Worth Independent School District announced that it would be putting into place policies to offer added support to its trans students. The school board stated that it would be providing “more specificity” to its existing policies on advising transgender youth, according to the Dallas Voice. Back in 2011, Fort Worth ISD became the first school district in Texas to pass guidelines protecting trans students from bullying, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
Patrick's opposition to Fort Worth ISD is clear: If the policies of school districts that support transgender students are not amended, further action to block the rights of trans students may be necessary.
On May 25, Texas stated that it would be joining 10 other states — including Alabama, Louisiana, and West Virginia — in opposing the Obama administration’s guidelines through a federal lawsuit. The administration announced in May that it would be sending schools a 25-page document outlining “best practices” for advising trans youth, which include allowing students to use the bathroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity.
Watch a clip of Dan Patrick delivering his comments at the Capitol below.