Policy change sparks fight over school bathrooms

    San Antonio Independent School District logo (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

    A fight brewing over school bathrooms stems from a policy change in the San Antonio Independent School District that extends non-discrimination protections to LGBT students.

    The district promises the change has nothing to do with who can use what bathroom, but concerned citizens fear a slippery slope.

    Advocacy groups on both sides held competing press conferences in advance of a school board meeting Monday evening that was expected to include heated public comment.

    "They know very well that there's been litigation on these issues," Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values said at a noon press conference. "They know very well that there's been a robust debate about these issues."

    A coalition of pro-LGBT advocates planned a “Stand Up for San Antonio ISD” press conference to begin just before the 5:30 p.m. board meeting.

    The non-discrimination statement protects students from discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin and disability.

    Last month, the school board added six words to the list of protections: gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

    (Click here to read the marked-up statement provided by SAISD.)

    "I assure you: six words will go a long way," said a high school student advocating for the changes during the Aug. 21 board meeting. "Thank you so much for allowing this on the consent agenda. LGBTQ rights are human rights,”

    The district says the changes are meant to foster a respectful environment.

    "Listening to that student and looking at the similar policies of other urban school districts - Dallas, Austin, Houston, El Paso - they made a decision that it was time for us to add that in,” said district spokesperson Leslie Price. "This has nothing to do with facilities. We won't have boys in girls’ bathrooms and showers. We won't have girls in boys’ showers and locker rooms."

    Concerned mother Alejandra Mendoza has reservations. She worries for her 16-year-old daughter’s safety in athletic facilities and says the district hasn’t been sufficiently transparent.

    "I would like clarification of what this rule, this law, that they made without our knowledge," Mendoza said. "Be more specific."

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