Attorney General Sides with Parents in Dripping Springs
Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion (OR2017-01919) late Friday stating that
the Dripping Springs ISD must comply with an open records request from Texas Values and parents wanting to preserve the dignity and privacy of their children, in certain instances. The ruling relates to a conflict between parents and Dripping Springs ISD that has be ongoing since September of 2016. The Attorney General ruling says that DSISD “may not withhold” portions of documents that according to the district relate to “the policy” on Title IX and bathrooms even though the district has said publicly that it does not have a “policy” on bathrooms, shower rooms and locker rooms. It is expected that Dripping Springs will have to turn over some emails it sought to withhold from the public and parents. The letter says specifically:
“However, we find the remaining information in Exhibit C consists of information that is administrative or purely factual in nature. Thus, you have failed to demonstrate that remaining information reveals advice, opinions, or recommendations that pertain to policymaking. Accordingly, the district may not withhold any portion of the remaining information in Exhibit C under section 552.111 of the Government Code on the basis of deliberative process privilege.”
The open records request, filed in November of 2016, asked for documents and written communications regarding the district’s new policy that allow boys into girls’ bathrooms. The school district appealed to the Texas Attorney General’s office, refusing to comply with the full open records request.
Jonathan Saenz, President and Attorney of Texas Values, released the following statement:
“Parents have been asking questions for months about Dripping Springs ISD’s new bathroom policy. Hopefully the documents that the Attorney General’s office has ruled must be turned over will provide answers about why Dripping Springs ISD has decided to allow boys into girls’ bathrooms. We are grateful for Attorney General Paxton’s opinion that concerned parents are entitled to a more transparent debate on this important policy than what they’ve experienced thus far.”
While the opinion allows the school district to redact or withhold certain information (such as personal email addresses, attorney-client communication, etc.) it is expected to give insight to the parents for answers as to what factors led to the crafting of this dangerous bathroom and locker room policy. The school district has 10 days from the issuance of the opinion (Friday, Jan. 27, 2017) to challenge it in a Travis County court and it is expected that the required documents will be turned over in the next few weeks.
The Dripping Springs ISD policy was implemented behind closed doors, without a vote by school board trustees, and without a public hearing or parental input. The first school board meeting after the new policy was discovered was standing room only and required an overflow room due to the outrage and attention it caused. The school district refused to include the issue on the agenda at subsequent school board meetings. Parents and other concerned parties nonetheless spoke to the subject in the open comments portion of the meetings, voicing their concerns for the privacy, safety and calls to change this dangerous policy.
This isn’t the first time a school board has been rebuked by the AG’s office after unleashing a bathroom policy behind closed doors. Fort Worth ISD’s Superintendent violated state law by unilaterally adopting a bathroom policy similar to Dripping Springs ISD’s without prior adoption by the school board.
Texas has been successful in leading several states in a court case that has stopped former President Barack Obama’s effort to force public schools to allow boys into girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms by withholding Title IX funds. Texas is leading a lawsuit of 13 states to stop the Obama administration’s attack on public schools and their misinterpretation of Title IX.
About Texas Values
Texas Values is a nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at txvalues.org.