Round Rock ISD Dismisses Parents, Traumatizes Community with LGBT Shadow Policy

Round Rock ISD (RRISD) is ignoring parents . . . on a “case-by-case basis.” Last week, the RRISD Board of Trustees met to discuss a Level III grievance complaint filed by a parent to express concern about a shadow policy allowing male high school students to undress in the female locker room without the knowledge of parents in the district.

A parent in the district initiated a formal complaint with RRISD last year after a female student was required to go home to change during the school day to avoid a male student whom district school officials had authorized to undress with her in her locker room. Through Levels I and II of the complaint process, the student’s parents requested that the district develop clear district policies that protect females from male intrusion in their sex-specific spaces, and to communicate those rules to parents, guardians, and students.

Texas Values’ President and Attorney Jonathan Saenz represented the parent for Level III of the grievance complaint, which involves a hearing before the Board of Trustees. On behalf of the parents, Attorney Saenz requested a public hearing for transparency, instead of the closed session planned by the board.

During the meeting, Board President Amber Feller announced that the board would not allow comments related to the grievance from members of the public during the public portion of the meeting. Board members Danielle Weston and Mary Bone pointed out that the board had, three times in the past year allowed public testimony on a Level III grievance similar the current complaint.  The request to have an open meeting was not granted.  As a result, Attorney Saenz and the parent did not participate in the closed meeting.

A De Facto Shadow Policy

Round Rock school district officials have claimed all along that they have no policy on usage of sex-specific spaces such as bathrooms and locker rooms on campus.  Since at least 2016, however, Round Rock ISD employees appears to have adhered to an internal, secret policy that explicitly ignores and misinterprets the current state of the law and embraces radical LGBT guidance from the Texas Association of School Boards.

The existence of this shadow policy is corroborated by statements of various Round Rock ISD employees that point to a de facto policy almost identical to one mentioned by the district in 2016 in an Austin American-Statesmen article. In the article, the school district is quoted as saying it accommodates transgender students on a case-by-case basis. “Our school leaders…[work] with students and parents on a case-by-case to assess any concerns regarding safety, including making special accommodations when appropriate.”

In correspondence available to Texas Values, several mentions were made by district employees of an unofficial policy currently in use by the district, all while school officials simultaneously claim that no policy exists:

  • Round Rock ISD Hearing Officer, Dr. Carla Amacher said: “Through your attempt at informal resolution, district administration informed you that when questions arise regarding facility usage as it pertains to gender they are handled on a case-by-case basis with the campus staff.” (Letter on 12/17/21)
  • Round Rock ISD Hearing Officer Sal Espinosa: – “…[D]istrict administration informed you that when questions arise regarding facility usage as it pertains to gender, they are handled on a case-by-case basis with campus staff.” (Letter on 12/17/2021)
  • Round Rock ISD Chief of Schools and Innovation Dr. Daniel Presley: “There is no district policy that restricts who uses which restroom, but…[w]hen questions arise on campus regarding facility usage, as it pertains to gender, these matters are handled by the campus on a case-by-case basis with considerations given to students and the campus.”(10/29/2021)

How is this “case-by-case” policy implemented? Sal Espinosa offered some insight in his Level II response to the parent: “Key considerations [for bathroom and locker room usage] would include student preference, student safety, accessibility, privacy, and the minimization of disruptions. [emphasis added]…As an initial step, the school district should communicate with the transgender student and the student’s parents to determine the student’s preference as to gender-specific facilities.”

This certainly sounds like a policy – a policy where the key consideration is student preference, and parents of other students who can be impacted are not notified. This troubling behavior also suggests that some Round Rock ISD board members don’t want to face the backlash of a public hearing on this issue.  How do you do that? You refuse to call it a policy (which would require the school board to take an official, public vote) and instead call it a practice or approach.

Based on Inaccurate Law

Documents available to Texas Values show that the school district refused to address the complaint based on the hearing officer’s determination that (1) the U.S. Department of Education would be releasing amendments to their Title IX guidance in April 2022 (this guidance, to date of writing, still has not been finalized), and (2) that separating bathrooms for males and females according to their genitalia would violate Title IX.

The legal issue that everything turns on is whether, under Title IX, “sex,” an objective standard based on human biology, includes “sexual orientation and gender identity” – a concept that allows sex to become wholly self-verified by each individual person and subject to change at any given moment.

The school district relies on the U.S. Department of Education’s “Interpretation” of Title IX, published in the Federal Register on June 22, 2021.  This document explained that “the Department interprets Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination to encompass discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” in light of Bostock v. Clayton County, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

However, the statute implicated in the Bostock decision was Title VII, not Title IX.  The Supreme Court explicitly excluded other laws, such as Title IX, from consideration, as Justice Gorsuch stated in his majority opinion:

The employers worry that our decision will sweep beyond Title VII to other federal or state laws that prohibit sex discrimination. And under Title VII itself, they say sex segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes will prove unsustainable after our decision today. But none of these other laws are before us; we have not had the benefit of adversarial testing about the meaning of their terms, and we do not prejudge any such question today. Under Title VII, too, we do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms, or anything else of the kind. [emphasis added]

Further, the Department of Education’s interpretation of Bostock was enjoined across 20 states in July 2022 when a federal judge ruled that the Department’s guidance documents improperly expanded the reach of Bostock and was effectively unauthorized legislative rulemaking by an executive agency. Judge Charles Atchley wrote:

Therefore, as explained above, Plaintiffs can show that the Department of Education’s guidance creates rights for students and obligations for regulated entities not to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity that appear nowhere in Bostock, Title IX, or its implementing regulations.

This injunction is still in effect and includes plaintiff states under the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – the appellate jurisdiction of the State of Texas.

Ongoing Misconduct

As early as 2016 there is record (queue Austin American-Statesman article noted earlier) of Round Rock ISD ignoring the current state of law in favor of radical LGBT ideology and favoritism.  For example, at the time of the article, the school district supported their decision to address transgender bathroom and locker room issues on case-by-case basis with decisions from the U.S. Department of Education and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  These decisions were summarized in a communication from then-President Obama, written to school districts across the country called “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.”

However, less than three months after the Obama “Dear Colleague” letter was sent, Texas federal Judge Reed O’Connor granted a nationwide preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the agency guidance. Despite this, Round Rock ISD has continued to follow the rules set up by rogue federal agencies in 2016 and place students’ safety in jeopardy.

The school district denied the request of Texas Values and the parent for a Level III hearing open to the public last week. If this shadow policy continues, parents in the district will continue to be left in the dark about what goes in their students’ most intimate spaces. It’s generally accepted that school districts often communicate important notices to parents. In fact, in 2018 Round Rock ISD sent a food alert notice to parents about contaminated Romaine lettuce that the district was not even serving!

Unfortunately, a lack of transparency often indicates larger problems beneath the surface. The fight continues – and so does the irreparable damage to students in Round Rock ISD by the very entity charged with the responsibility to protect them.

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