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

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

ACLU attorneys — along with several other advocacy groups — want the Office for Civil Rights to investigate Keller ISD for its new policy banning books about gender fluidity and Frisco ISD for its policy restricting bathroom use in facilities that match a person’s biological sex.

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

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

If the Office for Civil Rights opens an investigation, it could take months or even years to reach a resolution.

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

“We very much hope that the Office for 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 adopted a policy banning library books in 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 change a person’s body to conform to the “confident gender that is different from the person’s biological sex,” as determined by the birth certificate.

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KISD board president Charles Randklev has said the guidelines are to “protect children from sexually explicit and 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 states. “It seeks to suppress, in Keller ISD libraries, all access to information that is possible for a person to be transgender or non-binary.”

The group also cited examples of previous books the district pulled from the shelves — which centered around LGBTQ characters — as indicators of hostility, along with statements made by trustees in support of the policy.

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Rules targeting transgender and nonbinary students are increasingly being proposed in Texas and are likely to be a focus of the legislature.

ACLU of Texas attorney Chloe Kempf said transgender and non-binary youth are facing barriers when it comes to accessing sports, books, bathrooms and health care.

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

Frisco Baths

New rules codified by Frisco administrators earlier this month say each of the district’s multi-use bathrooms “shall be designated and used only by persons based on the person’s biological sex.”

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

Frisco ISD now has bathroom use policy for transgender students

The ACLU of Texas is arguing that the rules constitute gender discrimination against transgender and non-binary students in violation of federal law. In the absence of intervention, they say, the policy will cause harm to those children and invade their privacy.

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

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In a statement after the policy was adopted, Frisco schools spokeswoman 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 does not feel comfortable using a particular bathroom,” she said in an email.

At a heated board meeting earlier this fall, Frisco officials said that, out of about 40,000 middle school students, fewer than 50 have requested bathroom accommodations.

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

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation about pressing 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, Texas Communities Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation , The Murrell Foundation, Journalism Solutions Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, The Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and The University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab’s journalism.

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