EducationGunsLocal NewsContentious Frisco ISD Board Meeting Broaches Gender Bathroom Policy, Gun Storage Advisory

After the Biden administration changed course from the previous administration's policy on transgender student's bathroom use, Frisco ISD discussed its protocols.
September 13, 2022
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The Monday evening board meeting at Frisco ISD was rife with cheers and jeers from an off-camera audience as school board members occasionally clashed over the district’s gender bathroom policy and a resolution concerning the state’s gun storage laws.

One of the items on its lengthy agenda was a resolution directing the superintendent to devise a form to notify parents about Texas’ storage law, which reads:

“A person commits an offense if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm and the person with criminal negligence failed to secure the firearm or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access.”

That offense is a Class C misdemeanor but increases to Class A, punishable by up to a year in jail, if “the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person.”

As originally written, the resolution stated, “[T]he Frisco ISD Board further directs the Superintendent to develop a form, or modify an existing form, for the purpose of soliciting acknowledgment of Texas Penal Code 46.13 and the availability of resources regarding safe gun storage practices from parents in Frisco ISD.”

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This phrasing, and the directive itself, drew criticism from some. Texas Gun Rights posted the resolution on Facebook and said, “Frisco ISD is considering this resolution for a back-door registry of gun owning parents.”

A couple dozen individuals gave public comments at the meeting. Most who spoke on this issue were opposed to the resolution, while a few supported it.

Frisco ISD School Board President René Archambault told The Texan on Monday afternoon that the general blueprint for the form is a Houston ISD notice sent home with students that advises parents about the safe storage requirements and requests their signature for acknowledgment.

“This resolution is merely an informational campaign to encourage safe gun storage within our community,” she wrote in an email. “After the tragedies in Uvalde, Santa Fe, and other districts across the country, it has become clear that with over 75 percent of minor school shooters obtaining the gun from their home or the homes of relatives or friends, that safe gun storage is something that we can all come together as a community to promote.”

“We are not seeking to identify gun owners, nor as some may suggest, create a gun registry. That is not our intent,” she insisted. “It is merely to give information and to encourage our community to safely store their firearms in hopes of reducing the risk to our students and staff of an incident of gun violence, both on campus and within the homes of our students.”

After discussion, the board adopted the resolution by a 4 to 2 vote with an amendment reading, “The form shall clearly state that Frisco ISD is not requesting any information from any parents, including whether any parent owns a firearm or how any firearms are stored and that a parent’s acknowledgement of the statute and availability of resources shall not be construed to mean that the parent owns a firearm.”

An amendment by Marvin Lowe — one of the two new school board members at Frisco ISD and one of multiple conservative candidates across Texas who unseated incumbent members — to strike the fourth subsection entirely failed. Lowe and Stephanie Elad, the other new member, voted against the resolution.

Before they reached the gun storage resolution, the board meeting focused heavily on the district’s bathroom policy as it pertains to transgender students. Archambault and a district employee said frequently that the district’s current policy is that students use bathrooms according to their biological sex and if a case arises of a student feeling uncomfortable with that, the school will work with parents to find a solution.

That solution has most often been that the student uses the nurse’s restroom, according to district officials. But a few parents at the meeting testified during the public comment section that their child, or a peer of their child, had in recent years experienced a situation where a member of the opposite sex was using the other gendered bathroom.

One parent said that the school, which was unnamed, told him at the time that it wasn’t their policy to limit bathroom use.

The issue was set on the agenda as a response to the U.S. Department of Education under President Biden, which is considering withholding school lunch aid from districts that do not adopt the current federal government’s preferred bathroom policy — specifically that transgender students may use whichever bathroom they prefer. That directive is currently held up in court after a Tennessee district judge issued an injunction.

The board did not issue any rule changes one way or the other, despite some in the crowd calling for a change in one direction or the other, as no action item had been placed on the agenda.

Even so, the issue created a point of tension between the crowd and the board as well as the two new board members and some of the existing ones and the superintendent — specifically during Lowe’s line of questioning about the legality of a rule limiting bathroom use to an individual’s biological sex. 

At one point, Lowe and Superintendent Mike Waldrip engaged in a verbal spat over the continuous questions about the policy, concluding with Lowe quipping, “You should realize that I’m 25 percent of your boss.”

The tensions over district policies, actions, and materials have been under the spotlight all summer. A topic briefly mentioned during the meeting was the exposure of sexually explicit materials in the district’s various libraries.

State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) challenged a list of 23 books with allegedly sexual content — including “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” which in at least one scene graphically describes oral sex. That challenge triggers a review by the district’s staff as in other districts, where books may be pulled entirely or limited to upper age groups at the discretion of the school board.

After the meeting, Patterson thanked Lowe and Elad, saying, “Their straightforward and common sense approach is a breath of fresh air. They ask the right questions, and they ask them until they are answered. Tonight’s meeting left me encouraged for the future of our district.”

During the meeting, the board also discussed and heard public comment on the district’s employee social media policy — a response to an incident from last month in which an official Emerson High School account reshared an image entitled “Self-Love Reminders” that included a sex toy and encouraging young women to masturbate.

According to the district, it was shared on accident by an employee who didn’t read the text of the image. Frisco ISD later apologized and revamped its social media policy, and the board said Monday the employee had not been fired.

In a climate where more of the political spotlight has been trained on schools and the materials and curriculum they use, meetings like Monday night’s in Frisco have become more common, and many parents show no sign of letting up.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.