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MFISD policies on transgender athletes, controversial topics to reflect state law

Marble Falls Independent School District Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway

Marble Falls Independent School District Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway presented to the Board of Trustees policy changes during the board’s regular meeting Monday, July 18. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Marble Falls Independent School District Board of Trustees is considering a new policy on transgender student-athletes and a policy change on how teachers handle controversial topics in the classroom to adhere to current state laws.

During the Monday, July 18, board meeting, school administrators presented recommended and revised policies to the trustees.

The proposed new policies are in response to several bills signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott over the past two years that outline how public and charter schools handle issues regarding transgender student-athletes and the teaching of race, slavery, and sex.

When adopting policies, the MFISD board relies on instructions from the Texas Association of School Boards, which are reflective of the Legislature’s statutory direction. If school boards fail to follow TASB guidance and abide by state law, state Attorney General Ken Paxton can sue the districts.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Paxton sued several school districts for violating Texas law after they instated mask mandates. 

MFISD board President Kevin Naumann spoke to DailyTrib.com on the reasons behind adopting the new policies.

“Our discretion on state-level policy is very minimal,” Naumann said. “If we did anything other than adopt it, we would be outside the scope of what’s defendable in court in the state of Texas.”

The first of the two policies would require transgender student-athletes to compete on teams made up of the gender assigned to them at birth rather than the one with which they identify. This is in response to House Bill 25, which Abbott signed into law in October 2021.

“The reason of why (the policy) has hit our radar is because the law was altered in the last legislative session,” Naumann said. “All we are looking at now is a result of what has already been done at the state level.”

The second policy concerns a legal rewording for the instruction of topics deemed controversial by House Bill 3979 in school curriculums. It would regulate the teaching of issues such as race, slavery, and sex as well as ban requiring an understanding of The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project is a New York Times Magazine work aimed at reframing U.S. history “by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

These state measures have been equated to “abolishing critical race theory.”

MFISD’s amended policy aims to condense a previous list of 10 prohibited concepts to eight to ensure the district is following the statutory obligations of HB 3979, which Abbott signed into law in June 2021. 

MFISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen spoke to DailyTrib.com about the current state of the policy.

“(The controversial issues policy) is a confusing policy for school leaders because it appears to be self-contradictory,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Allen hopes to have a clearer understanding of the revised policy in the board’s upcoming regular meeting on Aug. 22.

“I am currently in the process of trying to get further guidance from TASB before we formally adopt these measures,” he said. “Between now and the next board meeting, I am hoping to have more clarity on the movement from the list of 10 to the list of eight.”

nathan@thepicayune.com