Respect Equality

Texas school district approves policy banning classroom discussions of race and gender, restricts books and pronoun use

“These policies are a reflection of Texas law and community values.”

Story at a glance

  • The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District board voted 4-3 on Monday to implement a slate of new policies that restrict how educators may teach their students about race, sexual orientation and gender identity and allows school staff to misgender transgender students, who are also barred from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

  • The new policies also allow school board members and parents to challenge library materials, and banned books will not be reconsidered for at least a decade.

  • Those in favor of the changes claim they are necessary to shield young students from “indoctrination,” while others have said the new policies amount to censorship.

A Texas school board this week passed a set of policies to limit how educators may discuss topics including race, gender identity and sexual orientation with their students and give trustees greater latitude to remove books from school libraries.

The slate of new policies, passed shortly before midnight by members of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) board, also allows district personnel to misgender transgender students and prohibits transgender students from using facilities like restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

Trustees that had backed the update on Monday said the changes were driven by an uptick in questionable material in school libraries and said the new guidelines would help push out “overt nefarious infiltration of social and cultural propaganda,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

District personnel under the new policies are prohibited from making social or public policy advocacy part of the curriculum and may not award students a grade or course credit, including extra credit, for their political activism.

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Educators of students younger than the fifth grade are also prohibited from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation, gender identity and race, according to one of the policies adopted Monday, including critical race theory and other “systemic discrimination ideologies.”

Another policy passed Monday prevents transgender students from using the restroom or changing facility consistent with their gender identity, and another asks that district staff not “promote, require or encourage” the use of a student’s or teacher’s pronouns that are inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth.

Even if a student’s parent or legal guardian requests that teachers or school administrators address their child using a specific title or pronoun, district staff may comply “at their discretion.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas singled out the district’s new pronoun policy as an “unnecessary and cruel form of discrimination.”

“Titles and pronouns are neither political, partisan, nor controversial,” the group said. “Using someone’s name and pronouns is a matter of common human decency and basic respect.”

Roughly 200 parents and community members attended Monday evening’s regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting, Dallas-based WFAA reported, squeezing into a board room made to seat 55.

The new policies were narrowly passed following the meeting, which lasted about five hours and included more than two hours of public comment.

“These policies are a reflection of Texas law and community values,” GCISD Board President Casey Ford said Monday, according to the Dallas Morning News. Other board members criticized the new policies, calling them an “affront” to teachers that will surely “harm students in the classroom.”

The policies also limit which library books are available to students of all grade levels and creates a separate “parental consent area” for titles that are “pervasively vulgar” or “obscene” or that promote subject matter that has been prohibited by law or the school district.

Board members and parents will also be able to review and challenge library materials more easily.

Challenged titles that undergo an official review and are deemed appropriate to remain in the library will not be reconsidered for removal for at least a year, according to the new library policy. Any materials that are removed, however, are not eligible to be added back to the library for at least 10 years, a policy the ACLU of Texas called “draconian.”

“Censoring books and censoring teaching about discrimination stigmatizes the identities of people who are Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ and invalidates their experiences,” the group said. “This will send the message to these students that they do not belong in GCISD and are not part of the community.”

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