Public schools have an obligation to uphold the best interests of their students. However, this broad mandate is open to interpretation from every teacher, principal, board member, administrator, student and parent. As many public school employees are finding out, enforcing school rules and honoring students’ civil rights is a delicate balancing act that can draw criticism from a variety of sources – including the American Civil Liberties Union.
ACLU calls for investigations
This balance and the potential for conflict is evident in the recent actions of the ACLU of Texas. The organization is calling on the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate the recent practices of two school districts, claiming that their policies violate the civil rights of LGBTQ students.
In mid-November, the Frisco Independent School District issued a rule to have students use the bathrooms corresponding to the gender assigned to them at birth. Around the same time, the Keller Independent School District banned books from its library that referenced gender nonconformity. According to the ACLU, these policies go against Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Schools’ rights, or civil rights?
The ACLU has yet to take any legal action against the two school districts. However, these districts are not the only ones in Texas navigating civil rights conflicts. Another recent high-profile controversy occurred in February when the NAACP filed a complaint with the Carroll Independent School District of South Lake.
Publicly funded schools throughout the state are figuring out how to strike a balance between doing what it believes is in their students’ best interests and upholding students’ civil rights. And with gender identity, race and other protected classes such hot-button issues in today’s climate, the challenges are unlikely to die down.