Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Frisco Independent School District requesting any documents that served as guidance on transgender issues within the district or any documents dealing with transgender issues from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). PDE received a document back from the district titled “Legal Issues Related to Transgender Students” that was created by the TASB. The document has a date of 2021. The document provides several questions and answers on transgender issues. PDE originally found another version of the document from the Round Rock Independent School District.
With one question, the document asks: “What if a parent does not support a student’s gender transition?” The document then provides a vague answer that mentions not using the preferred pronouns and names of students with parents. This tactic is often used to keep parents in the dark regarding the gender identity of their children. The document states:
As such, a student may request that a district employee not tell his or her parent about the student’s gender identity. School officials should proceed with caution in this case, in accordance with district policy regarding student counseling, crisis intervention, and child abuse. It may be possible to reach an agreement with the student and parent that satisfies everyone: for example, schools have instructed staff to call a transgender student by the student’s preferred name at school but to refer to the student by the name on the birth certificate in all communications with parents.
The document also appears to label “bullying” of a transgender person as a form of sexual harassment. The document states: “Bullying of a student because of the student’s nonconformity with gender norms is a form of harassment based on sex in violation of federal law.” The document later adds: “If a complaint is filed alleging discrimination or harassment of a transgender student, school officials should work closely with the district’s attorney.” The document also mentions that refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns and name is a form of discrimination:
OCR and DOJ’s 2021 guidance cites a failure to address a transgender student by the student’s chosen name and pronouns as an example of sex-based discrimination within the agencies’ enforcement authority under Title IX.
The document also explains that refusing to allow students to use their preferred restrooms and locker rooms is a form of discrimination. The document states: “OCR and DOJ’s 2021 guidance cites a district’s refusal to allow a transgender student to use the restroom according to the student’s gender identity as an example of sex-based discrimination within the federal agencies’ enforcement authority under Title IX.”
PDE received an email that the district’s board received from TASB executive director Dan Troxell dated January 31, 2023. The email discusses the TASB document “Legal Issues Related to Transgender Students” that several school districts in Texas appear to have. He explains that “nine Texas representatives sent a letter to all school board presidents that grossly misrepresents the content of the legal FAQ.” He added that “this same group of lawmakers is unfortunately using both misinformation and disinformation to call on Texas school boards to leave TASB.”
Dan Troxell explained in the email that a version of the document has existed since 2015. He then added: “Divisive, Washington-style politics has no place in Texas public schools. As your executive director, I will always correct and clarify false information so that you have all the facts.”
The organization North Texas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA) is an LGBTQ organization that targets children. The organization has a youth website that explains children as young as 11 years old can “participate in programs.” In another public records request seeking emails from the district’s board members, PDE received email communications between board members and GALA. Board members René Archambault and Gopal Ponangi both received invites to a GALA event labeled as a “Pride celebration” on June 16, 2022.
Both board members turned down the invitation due to attending a TASB event that Gopal Ponangi called the “Summer Learning Institute.” However, both appeared to show support for the organization. Gopal Ponangi stated: “Please include me in your future events and I will be glad to attend as per the availability.” He then added: “Wishing you all a great celebration!!” René Archambault went further in stating her support while turning down the invitation:
Thank you for your email. Please know that I’ve been an LGBTQ+ ally through my work at SMU for almost 20 years and I will continue to advocate for ALL students, teachers, and staff in my role as a Trustee on FISD’s school board. Unfortunately, I am out of town on the 16th for required school board training or I would have been honored to join you all. I appreciate the invitation and wish you a fantastic event.
René Archambault currently serves as president of the district’s Board of Trustees.
Gopal Ponangi’s reference to the TASB event “Summer Learning Institute” appeared to be a reference to the TASB’s “Summer Leadership Institute” annual conference for 2022. The TASB provides the following description for the event: “The annual Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) is not only TASB’s flagship training conference, but it is also our learning laboratory. SLI is designed to offer new and experienced school trustees a place to create their own learning journey and to ask bold questions.”
The program for the 2022 TASB conference has Adolph Brown listed as a speaker. The TASB describes him as a “social justice advocate” and “sought-after and highly effective Unconscious Bias, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion keynote speaker.” Unlike previous years for the Summer Leadership Conference, the 2022 program did not have a list of sessions for participants to join. These sessions often include topics in favor of transgender and equity issues.
PDE also received contracts and invoices that the Frisco Independent School District had with the TASB from 2018 to 2023. The school district paid the TASB for services such as updating policies, $11,000 in 2022 for TASB membership, and $30,000 in 2018 for “consulting services.”
PDE also received the district’s own transgender guidance labeled as “Student Facility Use Procedures for Administrators.”