When classes begin in about three weeks, students in the Carroll school district will only be allowed to use restrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates, and teachers don’t have to promote or use gender-identifying pronouns.
School trustees voted 6-0 Monday to adopt the policies that mirror those already in place in Keller, Frisco and Grapevine-Colleyville school districts.
Seven parents and one high school senior commented on the policy changes during the meeting at the Carroll ISD Boardroom in Southlake. Some accused the school board of a lack of transparency as the agenda and policies were publicly posted Friday afternoon, and that did not give the community time to study before Monday night’s vote.
Brady Golumb, a senior at Carroll High School said he is in the top 20% of his class and is applying to “elite colleges.” Golumb said he worries that the policies restricting restroom use and use of gender-identifying pronouns will make it more difficult for him to be accepted, as he said universities focus on diversity.
“There is so much intolerance,” he said.
Golumb said he often hears homophobic slurs and tells students to stop using them.
“I’m white. I’m straight. I’m 17 years old, I know what you are doing is wrong. I urge you not to make these changes to my schools,” Golumb said.
But Angie Dawkins, a parent of six sons, said she fully supports the board’s decisions, adding that protections for people who face discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender are covered under Title IX.
“There are people who believe the students belong in a protected class. Anyone has the right to make a claim (of discrimination.) By choosing to have my student enrolled in a school I’m trusting the administrator to investigate. As a parent, I take responsibility. It has nothing to do with the color of their skin or how they identify,” Dawkins said.
But Colleen Golestan said her son faced discrimination at school because of his sexual orientation.
“Carroll seems to be targeting LGBT students,” Golestan said. “I do not want what happened to my child to happen to anyone else’s child. I do not want someone’s child to feel that they are an abomination and that they are destined to hell.”
Before the board voted, Tamy Smalskas, assistant superintendent for administration said that the district’s nondiscrimination statement follows the federal Title IX guidelines because sexual orientation and gender discrimination are covered under sexual harassment protections.
The school district’s code of conduct also prohibits bullying, she said.
Trustee Andrew Yeager asked Smalskas if there is anything in the policies that should concern parents. “No sir,” she replied.
Trustee Eric Lannen said the district is standardizing its policies and that does not diminish the level of protection from discrimination.
Lannen said, “It really bothers me that people feel we (trustees) are not loving and caring toward our students.”
Along with adopting policies restricting restroom and locker room use and gender-identifying pronouns, trustees approved a 2023-24 student handbook and code of conduct that no longer contain references “transgender” and “sexual orientation,” including in the district’s nondiscrimination statement.
The nondiscrimination statement lists the following: race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability or any other basis.
Pam Francis, a parent who served on the policy review committee, said she was among the two members who voted against the policy changes, saying they no longer provided protection to vulnerable students as guaranteed under federal law.
Francis said there were specific votes to remove references to gender from the entire handbook, including the nondiscrimination statement. The statement also does not list sexual orientation. Examples of gender-based harassment which could be helpful to students and others concerned about reporting discrimination were also stripped from the handbook.
“They (transgender students) were told they could report and now all of that is gone. Why remove it, what’s the purpose?” she said.
The policies are based on Texas Association of School Boards guidelines, according to documentation from the school district. But Francis said the TASB guidelines include references to gender.
The Carroll school board voted to leave TASB earlier this year over concerns that the organization, which provides legal and risk management services to districts, was promoting “a divisive agenda.”
Carroll will remain in TASB through August.
Carroll is facing eight open civil rights investigations from the U.S. Department of Education Office on Civil Rights. The investigations include allegations of discrimination involving race, sexual orientation and disability.
Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education, did not respond immediately to an email from the Star-Telegram requesting information about the status of the complaints.
The ACLU of Texas has issued statements in opposition to school district policies it says target the LGBTQ community. Last month, the ACLU sent a letter to the Keller districtthat warned of legal action if the school board voted to adopt such policies in violation of Texas and federal laws.