DALLAS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed federal civil rights complaints Thursday against a fine arts public charter school in Fort Worth and a Fort Worth-area school district for adopting anti-LGBTQIA+ policies.
The organization is calling for the U.S. Department of Education to open investigations into the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts and Keller Independent School District for alleged Title IX civil rights violations.
These policies are part of a wave of attacks on transgender and nonbinary Texans, and the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, including students who seek to access medical care, to play sports, to participate in the arts, and to receive an inclusive education.
“It is deeply disappointing that these North Texas school boards have targeted their transgender, nonbinary, and intersex students, who just want to feel as though they belong,” said Chloe Kempf, ACLU of Texas attorney. “They’ve enacted policies depriving students of books that reflect their experiences. They’ve banned students from using the facilities and from participating in the activities that align with who they are, all the while subjecting them to harassment and bullying.
We urge the federal government to intervene and end these clearly discriminatory policies before they can further harm and stigmatize LGBTQIA+ students. No matter their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or religion, all students deserve to learn in an inclusive and welcoming educational environment.”
The ACLU of Texas filed a Title IX complaint on behalf of a Fort Worth family with a transgender and nonbinary child who was banned from joining the prestigious Singing Girls of Texas choir despite the choir director’s support of the student’s participation.
The student was blocked from completing their audition and the school board passed a new choir eligibility policy that forces students to perform with the choir that aligns with their sex assigned at birth.
“We knew there’d be bullies when my child first came out as transgender and nonbinary,” said Marie Moe*, the student’s mother. “There have been a handful. However, I never thought that the worst bullies would be grown men and women — school board members — who’ve abused their power to quite literally remove my child’s voice for the sake of personal and political advancement and religious dogma.”
The complaint also details how the school board’s actions have created a hostile anti-LGBTQIA+ atmosphere at the school. These actions and the school board’s anti-LGBTQIA+ policy violate Title IX by discriminating against students who are transgender and nonbinary.
“Inclusion into Singing Girls of Texas would have given our child the best chance to grow and learn because the director of Singing Girls of Texas is a phenomenal and award-winning instructor,” said Matthew Moe*, the student’s father. “Unfortunately, the discriminatory actions by the board derailed our child’s choir career before it even began. This whole process has added anxiety, stress, and a level of fear into our daily lives since we spoke out against the board’s decision. Now we feel like a target has been placed on our family just for trying to allow our child to be the happiest, healthiest, and most whole version of themself and for seeking the best educational opportunities for them.”
These policies go against federal law. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in March 2021, which clarifies the Department of Education policy that all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
At Keller ISD, on June 28, the school board voted to enact a “Facility Standards” policy, which prohibits transgender and nonbinary students from using the restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.
The board also passed a “Identification of Students” policy which allows and encourages teachers, staff and students to purposefully misgender transgender and nonbinary students at school.
Keller ISD has a documented history of bigotry against LGBTQIA+ students. The ACLU of Texas filed a previous complaint against the district for sex discrimination in November of last year when the school board voted to ban all library materials that that discuss or depict what the policy calls “gender fluidity” for all grade levels.
See a copy of the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts complaint here: https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/8.10.23_title_ix_complaint_fwafa_redacted_v2.pdf
See a copy of the Keller ISD complaint here: https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/2023.8.9_keller_isd_ocr_complaint_-_restrooms_and_pronouns.pdf