Wednesday, July 17, 2024

GISD board divided: Vote fails on Title IX resolution

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The Granbury Independent School District board of trustees deliberated over a resolution regarding Title IX guidelines during a regularly scheduled meeting June 24.

Although the resolution did not pass, board members participated in a spirited debate over whether the agenda item was even necessary following Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s most recent advisory published June 18.

TITLE IX

Title IX is a civil rights law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally funded colleges and K-12 schools.

But recent changes to Title IX regulations were announced by the Biden administration that would have redefined sex discrimination and sex-based harassment to prevent misconduct based on sex stereotypes, pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation, according to the Texas Tribune.

In opposition, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to President Biden April 29, stating that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority in rewriting certain aspects of Title IX.

Abbott's order came the same day Paxton announced he had sued the Biden administration to block the Title IX changes.

Paxton stated: “This attempt to subvert federal law is plainly illegal, undemocratic and divorced from reality. Texas will always take the lead to oppose Biden’s extremist, destructive policies that put women at risk.”

Additionally, Paxton released an advisory June 18 stating he had successfully stopped the implementation of rules by the Biden Administration’s Department of Education that would have forced Texas schools to adopt radical "transgender" policies in violation of state and federal law. According to Paxton’s news release, the federal court found that "to allow [the Biden Administration’s] unlawful action to stand would be to functionally rewrite Title IX in a way that shockingly transforms American education and usurps a major question from Congress. That is not how our democratic system functions."

Paxton’s news release states that because the court struck down the Biden Administration’s unlawful rule, Texas schools do not and should not adopt or enforce any of the policy changes contained in the rule. The release continues, “Texas students are now safe from losing their Title IX protections and the school districts are protected from the threat of the loss of federal funding.”

In the new legal advisory, Paxton explained: "This ruling covers all Texas school districts and ensures no district in our state will have to comply with the Biden Administration’s illegitimate interpretation that Title IX includes gender-identity requirements, including allowing men into women’s restrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, or requiring students or teachers to use pronouns based on gender identity rather than biological sex. And if any Texas school district adopts a policy or procedure that conflicts with or contravenes state law, then I will pursue every remedy available to protect students and teachers from these illegal and radical policies."

SPEAKER COMMENTS

During the public comment section of the GISD board meeting, a few residents voiced their opinion on the agenda item to denounce changes to Title IX.

“Title IX is fine, insofar as it prohibits discrimination against males and females,” Dennis Monder said. “However, the Biden administration's and Department of Education's attempt to broaden it to include a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification is not. Regardless of how anyone feels personally about these changes, a federal district court in Texas on June 11, ruled that such prohibition is illegal. … Our creator made us male and female. Yes, the district should denounce these changes, but even in the absence of such denunciation, the district must follow Attorney General Paxton's direction on this matter and not contravene the findings of the federal court.”

David Rogers said the proposed rewrite of Title IX has a “very destructive potential” to place men in girls’ locker rooms.

“This will endanger the safety and well-being of our female athletes as they compete,” Rogers said. “This denies their civil rights to be able to compete for athletic excellence, so I strongly would ask the GISD board of trustees to have a resolution denouncing Title IX.”

GISD TRUSTEES DEBATE

While the agenda item was initially aimed at denouncing the Title IX changes under the Biden administration, GISD’s resolution underwent a motion change when Place 3 Trustee Melanie Graft wished to align the district's policies with Paxton’s latest advisory.

“I’d like to move that we accept the resolution to Title IX that GISD will comply with Attorney General Paxton's advisory and will not allow men into women's restrooms, locker rooms, sports teams, or require students or teachers to use pronouns based on gender identity rather than biological sex,” Graft stated. “Additionally, GISD will make appropriate adjustments to our GISD policies to ensure our policies conform to this standard.”

Place 7 Trustee Karen Lowery seconded Graft’s motion.

Before a vote could take place, Place 1 Trustee Mike Moore asked to table the motion as Paxton had “already taken care of it.” He added that the resolution seemed like a “moot point.”

Board President Barbara Townsend said she agreed with Moore, adding that Texas students are also safe from losing Title IX protections and school districts are protected from losing federal funding.

"Keller, Tyler and Carroll have passed this resolution,” Graft said. “I feel that GISD needs to assure the community where we stand on this issue. We need to take a strong stance and pass policies and rules to protect the children of Hood County. If you don't agree with that, vote against it.”

“Yeah, but the AG just took care of that for us,” Moore responded.

“It doesn’t mean another administration can’t come in,” Lowery said. “But we need to be sure that parents understand now that we are going to stand behind AG Paxton.”

Secretary Billy Wimberly then brought forth a few pieces of background information from the Attorney General’s Office, stating that June 11, U.S. District Court and Judge Reed O’Conner in Fort Worth issued a 112-page ruling stating that the Department of Education did not have the authority to extend the ruling of Title IX in the state of Texas.

"The Department of Education cannot enforce those changes in Texas, so that makes this resolution moot until it comes back before that or that judge is overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court," Wimberly said. “Right now, we're talking about something that's moot in the state of Texas because the judge has ruled that that cannot take place and the attorney general backed that up with what you read earlier.”

“I think we all agree with the point of the resolution,” Place 2 Trustee Nancy Alana said. “I personally feel like there is no need for a resolution at this point because it's already been decided. However, I do agree with the points that were made in this, so I think it's just an act of if we want to let our community know where we personally stand on this issue, we can do that. But as far as adopting a resolution, the issue is moot.”

“I don't think it hurts to make sure that the governor and the AG know that Granbury is going to stand by them on this, but that's my opinion,” Lowery added.

Following discussion, the board took a vote regarding Graft’s motion to align GISD’s policies with Paxton’s advisory.

“I don't understand why we're voting on it when something is already in place,” Moore said.

“We're voting on it because the motion’s there, so we're going to vote,” Townsend said.

The motion failed 4:2, with Graft and Lowery voting for the resolution. Vice President Courtney Gore was absent during the meeting.

“I want to make it clear that I agree with the point of the resolution; there is just no need for a resolution,” Alana added.

“I support that and totally agree with what Nancy's saying," Moore said. “I want it to be known.”

Townsend concluded the discussion by adding, “I appreciate the fact that Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken care of this issue for us; that is why he is our attorney general. I also believe it's a moot point and we will follow as Granbury ISD in what our state tells us to follow.”