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Lawmaker joins fight against Dripping Springs transgender decision

State Rep. Jason Isaac joined members of the conservative advocacy group Texas Values and about 15 parents at the Dripping Springs school district offices Monday afternoon to urge school leaders to reverse a school’s transgender-friendly bathroom policy.

Parents clashed at a district forum in September after the principal of Walnut Springs Elementary School decided to allow a third-grade transgender student who was born a boy to use the girls bathroom. Opponents of the school’s decision planned to confront school board members at another meeting Monday night.

“What it boils down to is the safety of our students and the safety of women throughout the state,” said Isaac, whose two children attend Dripping Springs schools. Isaac’s statement echoed a similar argument being made by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who says his proposal to restrict transgender bathroom access aims to keep male predators out of women’s restrooms.

Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values, said he has encouraged parents to denounce the Dripping Springs school district’s decision to determine bathroom accommodations for transgender students on a case-by-case basis.

“Dripping Springs ISD can run, but they can’t hide forever from parents and taxpayers on their controversial policy that allows boys into girls bathrooms and affects over 5,000 students,” Saenz said.

Superintendent Bruce Gearing told the American-Statesman in September that the district has no specific blanket policy in regard to bathroom accommodations for transgender students.

Although parents and community members on both sides of the issue have commented at school board meetings in the past three months, the board members had not discussed it or taken any action on it.

Saenz said he believes that the board members, who he says are intentionally refusing to address the issue of bathroom accommodation policy for transgender students, are failing to fulfill their duty of carrying out what the public wants and that the matter should be put to a public vote.

Some parents criticized the school for not notifying parents that it is allowing a transgender student to use the bathroom designated for the gender with which she identifies. However, Gearing said it would be impossible for the school to notify parents of such situations without violating confidentiality laws.

Nikki Kelton, a parent of three students in the district, said the decision violated her parental rights.

“Parents were deprived of the opportunity to have this conversation with their children in their homes from a standpoint that reflects the values and beliefs of the family,” Kelton said. “Students who had questions about the student undergoing transition were read a book about the understanding and acceptance of transgenderism without parental knowledge or consent. This book was read to the students by an influential and authoritative figure.”

Isaac said he might work with state Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels in the upcoming legislative session to support any bill that bars transgender students from using the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has led a 13-state lawsuit against an Obama administration policy issued in May that directed U.S. public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

A federal judge sided with Paxton in October and put that directive on hold for now.

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