Update – TJC Transgender Issue

GAWTPJA

Response to Tyler Junior College’s statement regarding facility policies

related to gender expression and identification

Tyler, Texas – Today, Grassroots America received a statement forwarded from TJC President Dr. Mike Metke, clarifying some of the questions we raised yesterday after receiving numerous angry calls from parents, students, and concerned citizens.

 

Grassroots America asked TJC officials four questions:

Question #1: Exactly who “instructed” Texas colleges to enact federal guidelines on campus bathroom/shower/locker room/dressing room policy, when the federal government has zero authority to dictate such guidelines without a change in law? Previous statements quoted by campus staff indicated Texas colleges had been instructed to enact transgender federal guidelines. We asked them to identify exactly “who” instructed them to change the school’s policies.

TJC’s public statement responds, “The TJC student newspaper is independent from the College and does not represent the views, or speak on behalf, of the administration on any issue. The TJC employee quoted extensively in the article in question last week is not an authorized spokesperson for the college and represented personal viewpoints.” TJC’s official statement further clarifies, “TJC did not put in place any new internal policy in response to the guidance letter issued in May from the Office of Civil Rights.”

 

Question #2: What effect does this week’s federal court injunction, which halts the Obama Administration’s mandate to public schools to follow the federal transgender guidelines or risk losing federal funds, have on colleges and universities?

TJC’s public statement responds, “In light of this week’s federal court injunction, TJC is working with legal counsel to evaluate changes in the law regarding gender issues and will not implement any transgender-related policies until this area of law is settled.

 

Question #3: Exactly how was this rule change decided for Tyler Junior College? Grassroots America believes the elected body of TJC officials – who levy taxes upon homes and businesses and borrow money that must be repaid by current and future taxpayers – should be the ones making such a decision, not administrative staff. 

TJC’s public statement responds, “TJC follows the guidance of the federal government and the Office of Civil Rights. Such adherence is required to make sure that the college continues to be eligible to receive federal funds. TJC did not put in place any new internal policy in response to the guidance letter issued in May from the Office of Civil Rights.” The statement further stated, “TJC will continue to follow our existing nondiscrimination policy. Should any unique issues regarding gender and bathroom usage arise, we will deal with them on a case-by-case basis.

 

Question #4: Once questions 1 – 3 are answered, what action will the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees take and will they allow their stakeholders to have their say?

This remains an open question. Today, the school’s statement declared, “TJC is working with legal counsel to evaluate changes in the law regarding gender issues and will not implement any transgender-related policies until this area of law is settled,” and further stated, “TJC will continue to follow our existing nondiscrimination policy. Should any unique issues regarding gender and bathroom usage arise, we will deal with them on a case by case basis.”

 

The fact remains that TJC policy language already cites gender identity and gender expression accommodations on the college’s website. We believe it is a reasonable expectation of parents, students, and school employees that TJC would make very clear the practical application of the stated considerations for gender identity and gender expression as posted there.  

TJC officials must not be so short-sighted as to overlook the fact that these issues are completely new and troubling to some of their stakeholders.  We are simply advocating to the elected Board of Trustees that they not forget that employees, parents, students, and taxpayers have a right to know exactly how TJC’s accommodations might impact individual privacy and safety, since gender identity and gender expression will eventually impact local Title IX programs.

In practical terms, these accommodations mean that potentially anybody who personally “identifies or expresses” themselves as male, female, or both – though different from their biological gender – may, at any given time, access the restroom of their choice and any facility covered under Title IX programs and facilities such as locker rooms, dressing rooms,  and overnight accommodations for traditionally sex-segregated activities.

In speaking with numerous TJC stakeholders, we are not entirely sure that TJC’s plan to “deal with them on a case by case basis” will prove to be sufficient.

Grassroots America recommends the Tyler Junior College elected Board of Trustees discuss the issues in a public setting and make accommodation to hear questions from its stakeholders. In a case like this, access to elected officials matters.

 

Additional resources to help understand this issue:

The current, official EEO/Statement of Non-discrimination on the TJC website and in the Student Handbook for 2016-2017 clearly states that “gender identity” and “gender expression” are entitled to “equal consideration”. Furthermore, the current TJC Board Policy Manual provides the following definitions: “Gender identity” means a person’s internal or personal sense of being a man or woman.  “Gender expression” means the external manifestation of a person’s gender identity, usually expressed through masculine or feminine clothing, haircut, voice, or bodily characteristics.  Typically, a person’s gender expression aligns with his or her gender identity.

 

To read the Federal Government’s Transgender Guidelines, click here:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf

To read Title IX language, click here:  https://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm

To view the Texas Attorney General’s guidance letter to public education institutions, click here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/Significant_Guidance_Letter.pdf?cachebuster:37

To view the nationwide injunction order, click here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/Texas_et_al_v._U.S._et_al_-_Nationwide_PI_(08-21-16).pdf