PDE finds guidelines on transgender issues from the Texas Association of School Boards in emails from Fort Bend Independent School District board members; emails contain documents from TASB pushing transgender policies


Parents Defending Education submitted multiple public records requests to the Fort Bend Independent School District requesting any transgender policies, transgender documents from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), and email exchanges district board members had with the TASB regarding transgender issues. In one email PDE received that is dated January 23, 2023, board member Rick Garcia asked an attorney of the school district about a document the district had from the TASB and “what Fort Bend ISD’s obligations are from a legal perspective.”

The TASB document attached to the email was “Legal Issues Related to Transgender Students” and was dated 2023. Rick Garcia stated: “This will start to come up, especially as election draws near and I am relatively uneducated on this subject at the moment.” PDE has found other versions of the document with other school districts in Texas. The document provides several questions and answers on transgender issues.

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: “As federal agencies with enforcement authority under Title IX, however, 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.” The following peculiar comment is also made in the document: “In addition, President Biden is urging Congress to pass a statute that would supersede state laws denying rights to transgender individuals.”

The document was attached to an email from board member Rick Garcia.

Board member Judy Dae previously asked Rick Garcia his thoughts about the TASB document on January 20, 2023. She stated: “I would like to hear your thoughts on this if you are willing to share since you are on the legislative committee. These questions are going to come up for us soon.”

Board member Judy Dae previously asked Rick Garcia about his thoughts on the document.

PDE obtained 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 following email was also sent to the district’s board from the TASB on January 13, 2023.

The TASB has a program called “Leadership TASB” that the organization describes as “a unique board development program designed to take experienced board members to a new level of service and leadership by exposing them to a variety of issues, people, activities, and locations during a year-long program.” The TASB states that the program “is composed of multiple sessions held among a cohort group of 36 participants” and that “class members are selected for demonstrated leadership in their local district and communities.”

The school district provided PDE with an email dated September 28, 2020, regarding Leadership TASB. The email contained several documents about a Leadership TASB session for chosen participants. One document for the session tells board members to “become constructive, informed, and articulate agents of change including, but not limited to, advocacy on all levels where public policy decisions are made.”

The document states that participants “will devote their year to the study of the scope of public-school trustees in the promotion of equality, justice, and better enabling the American dream for all children.” This includes “five research questions [that] have been developed as the point of embarkment.” Participants choose questions from the list to research. These questions focus on the race and gender identity of children:

  • What has the pandemic taught school trustees about the inequality of education in Texas and how can they address issues of inequality? Access? Educational rights of special needs populations? Other?
  • Are there social justice disparities embedded in our public-school enterprises? What are some flashpoints trustees should watch for to determine if the problem is real or NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard)?
  • Regarding the norms/values of communities, should publicly elected School Boards reflect or lead? Are the norms in sync with the needs of children or more a product of historical circumstances? With either response (reflect or lead) what risks are involved versus what rewards might be gained? Renaming schools, recognizing ethnocentric celebrations during the school day?
  • How do children of color view some social institutions e.g. schools and school authority, police departments, and others differently from white children? Why? If a disparity exists, how does it affect the larger society and how does it impact education?
  • What policies and school day practices might create a disparity and thus adversely impact the educational experience of children who might be struggling with gender identity issues? Are there common school practices that perpetuate a disparity?
The TASB explains what the “Leadership TASB” program is.

PDE received another email dated March 30, 2021, that provides a document “showing required training for first year and more than one year trustees” from the TASB. One topic of discussion was “Emerging Issues for Texas School Boards and Transgender Students” dated February 28, 2020. The email was from Jim Rice.

Jim Rice previously served as a board member for Fort Bend Independent School District. He served as the statewide president of the Texas Association of School Boards in the 2020-2021 school year. Rick Garcia defeated Jim Rice for his seat on the school district’s board in 2022.

Jim Rice was a member of the district’s board and served as president of the TASB.

The TASB also has a “Summer Leadership Institute” each year. 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.”

PDE received a document through an email for the TASB’s Summer Leadership Institute in 2020. Sessions for participants to join at the conference were “Avoiding the Value Gap: Ensuring Equity is Embedded in Resource and Policy-Making Decisions,” “Why and How Latinx Leaders Are Addressing Educational Equity,” “Learning to Talk About Challenging Issues: Race, Ethnicity, Class, and the Gender Spectrum,” and “Why Can’t You See My Culture?”

The TASB explains what the Summer Leadership Institute is.

On May 13, 2021, an email to district board members stated that the district “was awarded eight in-person registrations for this year’s Summer Leadership Institute being held in San Antonio from June 16-19, 2021.” The document for the 2021 conference was also attached to the email. Sessions for participants to join at the conference were “Let’s Talk about Race and Diversity in a Safe Environment,” “Hair Length, Earrings, and the New Culture Wars: The Liability of Gender-Specific Dress Codes,” “Promoting Equity: Five Strategies for Addressing Microaggressions and Bias in Schools,” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What Does This Mean, Exactly?”

The TASB conference document states for the “Hair Length, Earrings, and the New Culture Wars: The Liability of Gender-Specific Dress Codes” session: “As the concept of gender has become more fluid in society, those standards are being challenged. This presentation will update trustees on trends in the law in Texas and across the nation regarding gender-based dress codes and grooming standards and provide practice guidance on adopting dress and grooming standards.”

For the “Promoting Equity: Five Strategies for Addressing Microaggressions and Bias in Schools” session, the TASB states: “Racial and gender bias, whether implicit or explicit, and microaggressions contribute to discrimination and create an inequitable educational and work environment. You are responsible for helping your organization recognize and combat intolerant attitudes and behaviors that negatively affect your employees and students and create the risk of liability.”

PDE received an email stating that board members would attend the 2021 Summer Leadership Institute.

The TASB has another annual conference for board members called the “Governance Camp.” PDE received an email dated March 2, 2022, that was sent to Fort Bend Independent School District board members about their attendance at the 2022 “Governance Camp” conference. TASB describes the Governance Camp as “a unique learning experience, where Texas school board members receive top-notch training focused on governance, leadership, and student voice.”

The district’s email included a TASB document for the conference. One session for participants at the conference was titled “Do You Know How Some of Your Policies Affect Your Students?” The description of the session explains that “transgender students” will be talking about their “experiences.” The TASB stated for the session:

Hear directly from transgender students about experiences they face in Texas public schools. The session will include a discussion with parents and students about the importance of inclusive policies and the obstacles students face to better support all students receiving an education in the district. Bullying and harassment, name and pronoun use, access to public facilities, dress and grooming codes, as well as sports will be included in the discussion.

Another session at the conference was titled “Why Should Gender Inclusivity Matter to ISD’s?” The TASB described the session as participants examining “the effects of anti-transgender rhetoric in the educational environment on students in Texas.” The TASB stated for the session:

Explore the role gender identity plays in a student’s school experience. Learn why support in the academic setting makes a difference in transgender and gender nonconforming youth outcomes. Understand the components of a supportive education environment. Examine the effects of anti-transgender rhetoric in the educational environment on students in Texas.

The school district’s board members appeared to attend a “Governance Camp” conference from the TASB.
The TASB explains what the conference is.

PDE additionally received numerous contracts and invoices that the school district paid the TASB from 2018 to 2023. Payments to the TASB include providing the district with professional development and at one point $25,000 for human resources services.

The Fort Bend Independent School District also provided PDE with the 2022-2023 “Student Parent Handbook.” The handbook has a section labeled as “Administrative Guidance: Transgender Student Concerns.” The handbook states in this section: “A transgender student is a student whose gender identity—one’s internal sense of gender—is different from the student’s birth gender and is a sincerely held part of the student’s core identity.” The district states regarding the issue:

The bottom line rule: accommodations should be considered on a case-by-case basis and should be implemented in a way that is reasonably appropriate to the circumstances, considering: (1) the student’s and parent’s expressed wishes; (2) the balancing of the privacy concerns of all students; and (3) the preservation of the District’s goal of providing a safe and effective educational environment for all students.

The district further states: “For example, schools should allow transgender students to use their preferred name upon request, whether or not they have had a legal name change.” The district later adds: “Campuses should also consider creating a support team, as part of the accommodation plan for the student, in order to address any concerns raised by the student and help ensure that the student has safe and equitable access to school district facilities and activities.”