School

Of Parental Rights: My Letter to Fort Worth Independent School District Board Members

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Cowtown, Texas (a.k.a. Fort Worth) is generally a fairly quiet place to live. For nearly a decade, I have called this place home. Three of my four children are native-born Texans. While every city has its warts, I have thoroughly enjoyed the slow-paced, down-to-earth culture of the place where the West begins.

However, in recent days there have been developments within our little slice of Texan paradise that have made me wonder if I am living in New York, Los Angeles, or (gasp) Dallas. Just last week news headlines started appearing that the Fort Worth Independent School District had enacted new guidelines regarding transgender students and bathroom/locker room use. Such guidelines never appeared on a FWISD meeting agenda, nor did the school board seek public comment. The new guidelines seem to be the work of Superintendent Kent Scribner. Yesterday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called on Superintendent Scribner to resign.

The gist of the guidelines follow the same pattern that Target has recently touted in its bathroom policies. There are also provisions related to private bathroom facilities, athletic teams, and school counselors. In essence, FWISD schools are now to allow students to use whichever restroom matches the gender with which they currently identify. Students may play on athletic teams of the gender with which they identify unless that sport is regulated by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which states that student athletes can only play on gender-specific teams according to the gender listed on the student’s birth certificate.

There is also a significant statement in the section entitled “Privacy and Confidentiality.” In this section, the guidelines read:

All students have a right to privacy. This includes keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. School personnel may only share this information on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs. This includes sharing information with the student’s parent or guardian. When contacting the parent or guardian of a transgender student, school personnel must use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent, or guardian has specified otherwise.

Since the FWISD school board meets again tonight, I have sent the following letter to my specific board representative as well as the board president, first vice president, and second vice president. Even though there are many different approaches for addressing an issue like this, I have focused on the parental rights angle. I hope you find this letter helpful.

Dear School Board Member (specific names used in actual letters):

As a resident in FWISD District 6 and a parent of 4 children, I am greatly troubled by the new transgender student guidelines. Without any opportunity for public comment nor any opportunity for constituents to contact their school board members, FWISD has enacted politically-motivated, controversial, and potentially damaging policies. Of particular concern is the section of the guidelines that notes the following:

“All students have a right to privacy. This includes keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. School personnel may only share this information on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs. This includes sharing information with the student’s parent or guardian.”

I have four school-age children. Their well-being and livelihood is the responsibility of my wife and myself. No government agency, school employee, or educator has the right to usurp my authority as a parent. Parents should always be informed of issues that happen at school. The school should never intentionally withhold information from parents. This is government overreach at a most egregious level.

For this reason, I respectfully ask you to call for the school board to rescind these new guidelines immediately. At the very least, the entire school board should suspend the guidelines, take up this issue with great caution, and receive input from the constituents whom they represent. Action like this on the part of the school board contributes to a culture of distrust for the school board on the part of Fort Worth’s residents.

Thank you for your time and service to our community. If you would like to discuss this further, my contact information is listed below.

Evan Lenow, Ph.D.
(Contact information included in original letters)
If you would like to contact members of the FWISD school board, their names and emails are listed below. Remember to keep it succinct, direct, and respectful.
Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos, Jr. – jacinto.ramos@fwisd.org

Tobi Jackson – tobi.jackson@fwisd.org
Christene Chadwick Moss – christene.moss@fwisd.org
Theophlous Aron Sims, Sr. – ta.sims@fwisd.org
Judy Needham – judy.needham@fwisd.org
Ann Sutherland – ann.sutherland@fwisd.org
Norman Robbins – norman.robbins@fwisd.org
Matthew Avila – matthew.avila@fwisd.org
Ashley Paz – ashley.paz@fwisd.org

To find your specific board member, a map is available here and the list of board members by district is located here.

A copy of the new guidelines can be found at the end of this news story.

Guest Post: 3 Back-to-School Prayers for Your Children

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I have always loved the saying, “Having happy children is good, but a parent’s real job is to mold great adults.” It is with this thought running through my mind that I make my list of prayer requests for my children this school year. Yes, I would love for my children to ace all of their classes, always have someone to sit with at lunch, and received all of the best awards at the end of school. However, would the ease of a typical, great year truly build strong character and emotional endurance? Yes, it would be easy, but muscles are not built by a life of ease. In the same way, my overarching prayer for my children this year is that their spiritual, emotional, and academic muscles will grow stronger and their endurance through instruction and personal relationships will grow deeper and wider. Specifically, these are the three ways I will pray for my children during the 2015-2016 school year.

1. I pray they will grow in their love of God and learn to trust Him more.

My two oldest daughters are believers, and I pray this year they will grow in knowledge of their Savior. I wish this was as easy to measure as their physical growth, but, this year, I will look for opportunities to gauge where they are in their walk with Christ. I pray they see him move in ways they have not experienced before. I know that this cannot always be done with sunny skies and cool breezes. I pray when the hard days come for my children, I can help them turn to Christ for comfort or direction. For my younger children, who are not to the age where they are aware of their need for a Savior, I pray that they will see the Lord more in me. If they are going to be drawn more to Christ, I must be drawn to Christ as well.

2. I pray they will continue to grasp the command of Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

As they do their math homework, as they do their chores, as they help a sibling, I want them to grow in their understanding of God-focused work. The sin tendency within us automatically gravitates towards laziness, but I pray we will learn to counter-act that tendency with a heart towards working for the Lord in whatever we find ourselves doing. In the same vein, the second part of the verse is equally important. Many tasks are attached to immediate rewards, either personal or social. A child does his school work in hopes of a good grade. She completes chores with the expectation of an allowance. He practices an instrument to impress the instructor. Earthly rewards are not bad for children, and in some instances they help spur them on to work harder. However, the insatiable desire to please their Savior and honor Him with a good work ethic is important over a lifetime. Therefore, my prayer this year is that my children may simply grow in their understanding of what it means to “work as unto the Lord.”

3. I pray my children will have opportunities to learn to love well.

At school, there are many different personalities. Each instructor, each peer will have good days and bad days. I pray that my children will flex their love and compassion muscles to show grace to those around them. Honestly, this does not come easily for all my kids, but to love those around us is a way we can point people to Christ in a very tangible way. There is always a reason to be kind and I pray that this year will bring many opportunities for them to do so.