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Frisco, Keller school districts accused of sex discrimination

IMG_0784 (2).JPG Eight people sitting in big, black chairs at a long, wooden desk
Bill Zeeble
/
KERA News
Keller ISD trustees weigh in on a controversial book ban policy. It passed 4-2 November 14, 2022. One trustee abstained.

The ACLU of Texas called for a civil rights probe after Keller ISD approved a book ban and Frisco ISD passed a bathroom bill, both tied to LGBTQ communities.

The ACLU of Texas accused two North Texas school districts of unlawful sex discrimination in the wake of recent school board votes targeting LGBTQ communities.

Last Monday, Frisco ISD trustees unanimously approved a policy restricting multi-occupancy bathrooms to people based on biological sex assigned at birth. That same day, Keller ISD trustees voted 4-2, with one abstention, to ban all books in all grades tied to "gender fluidity." The civil liberties organization said that amounted to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

ACLU staff attorney Kate Huddleston said the policies could bring harm to transgender and non-binary youth: 45% of LGBTQ youth "seriously considered" suicide in the past year, according to the latest survey from the Trevor Project.

“These are some of the most vulnerable children in our society," Huddleston said. "It’s extremely important these children and teenagers feel that they’re not alone, and that adults in the community and, most importantly, at school, respect and are there for them.”

The letters accuse both districts of engaging in "unlawful sex discrimination against transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex students in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.” They're asking for an investigation from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The civil liberties group says Frisco's policy “seemingly allows Frisco ISD and its teachers and administrators to ignore and erase students’ gender identities in violation of federal law." The groups says neither Texas nor federal law defines "biological sex."

The group added that barring every student access to information about the existence of transgender and non-binary experiences or non-binary people would prevent children to access such books even if their parents want them to.

Reached by email, representatives from both districts said they had not received an official notice of complaint.

After the vote in Frisco, school officials said policies would effectively remain unchanged because students and families can request an accommodation if a student is uncomfortable using a particular bathroom.

"The recent School Board meeting specifically addressed the question of whether upon request transgender students would be permitted to use multi-user bathrooms that align with their gender identity," spokesperson Meghan Cone wrote in an email to KERA.

The ACLU wasn’t convinced. The group said the policy, “would very publicly brand all transgender students with a scarlet ‘T’ that would ostracize these students from their peers and expose them to bullying and harassment.”

"This policy seeks to erase transgender and non-binary identities in particular and sends the message that transgender and non-binary students do not belong in the Keller ISD community,” the letter says.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.