WICHITA FALLS – According to at least one U.S. district judge, school-aged boys are still school-aged boys and school-aged girls are still school-aged girls – regardless of how he or she identifies.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction Sunday, Aug. 22, that blocks President Barrack Obama’s nationwide directive issued to U.S. schools May 13. The POTUS directive ordered superintendents to adopt rules in schools that allow for children to use bathrooms, among others, that he or she identified with regardless of gender.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” said O’Connor in his opinion issued in State of Texas v United States of America. “The sensitivity to this matter is heightened because defendants’ actions apply to the youngest child attending school and continues for every year throughout each child’s educational career. The resolution of this difficult issue is not, however, the subject of this order.

“Instead, the Constitution assigns these policy choices to the appropriate elected and appointed officials, who must follow the proper legal procedure.”

According to O’Connor’s opinion, the 13 plaintiffs – which includes Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisana, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and two school boards – contested the defendants’ “assertions that Title VII and Title IX require that all persons must be afforded the opportunity to have access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities which match their gender identity rather than their biological sex."

The opinion also states that the defendants challenged assertions by the plaintiffs’ that school districts must “immediately allow students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and showers of the students’ choosing or risk losing Title-IX-linked funding.”

The plaintiffs, in this case, include the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and various other agencies.

“The court finds that plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction should be and is hereby granted,” O’Connor stated. “Defendants are enjoined from enforcing the guidelines against plaintiffs and their respective schools, school boards, and other public, educationally-based institutions. Further, while this injunction remains in place, defendants are enjoined from initiating, continuing or concluding any investigation based on defendants’ interpretation that the definition of sex includes gender identity in Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex.”

The reaction

Politicians from around the state praised O’Connor for his opinion. Those holding office in Texas were, for the most part, in full support of the preliminary injunction. The list of supporters included Rep. Joe Barton of the 6th congressional district, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“I commend Judge O’Connor’s decision to block the Department of Education’s federal guidance,” Barton said. “I strongly oppose the administration’s federal overreach and believe that school officials, parents, and local and state leaders should be making these determinations instead. I have cosponsored H.R. 5275, the PUBLIC School Act of 2016 which would allow both public and private schools to determine their policies regarding the use of their bathrooms and locker rooms.”

Patrick, who sent a letter in June to every school district across the state to urge districts to disregard the POTUS’ policy, joined in the applause by Barton.

“Last June, I said Texas would not be blackmailed by the president who threatened the loss of education funding to get school districts to comply with his order,” Patrick said. “I sent a letter to every school district in the state urging them not to enact the president's policy and, instead, wait for the legal process to conclude. I also stood up against a Fort Worth ISD policy that mirrored the president's policy on this issue. The district pulled their policy down last month.

Schools districts have handled this issue on a case-by-case basis in the past and with this ruling can continue to do so without threats from Washington. There are already school policies in place that provide protection for any student who is bullied.”

However, there was opposition. Five civil rights organizations – comprised of Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Texas; National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR); Transgender Law Center; and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) – were none too happy with the decision.

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination. This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students,” a representative of the coalition said. “[…]The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.”

Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

(469) 517-1470