The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and 15 local school district superintendents signed a letter in opposition to the proposed "bathroom bill."
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and 15 local school district superintendents signed a letter in opposition to the proposed "bathroom bill." Credit: Courtesy

With controversial “bathroom bill” legislation scheduled to go to committee at 9 a.m. Friday, opposition grows more vocal and more organized. The latest to add their objections to bills regulating public bathroom use by transgender Texans are 15 local school district superintendents and the top official of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

A letter signed by San Antonio Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez and the superintendents went to House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) on July 17. The letter urged the State to leave such privacy matters to local education leaders.

“If the Governor and others trust and allow for local ISDs to develop individual and creative approaches for educating students, why would we not do the same with regards to privacy issues?” the letter asks.

Click here to download a copy.

The letter raises the issue of local control, a traditionally conservative principle that many moderate Republicans and Democrats feel has come under attack by Gov. Greg Abbott and the 85th Legislature. But following the death of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Senate Bill 6 in the regular legislative session, Abbott added the issue to his list of agenda items for the special session that began Tuesday.

“The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and our San Antonio area superintendents strongly believe that the best way to serve our young people and ensure their safety and privacy is to allow decisions to be made by those closest to them. That would be our local ISDs, the administrators who manage the campuses, and a child’s parents/guardians,” the letter states.

While there has been no local outcry over specific instances of privacy violations, business and school leaders recognize that the wrangling over the bathroom bill will occupy much of the legislature’s time over the coming month, and they offered to provide input.

“As this issue continues to be discussed during this special session, we hope to serve as a resource in the dialogue and share our perspective on the issue. We all want to ensure our children are safe, but more importantly, treated respectfully and with dignity.”

While the legislation is commonly called the “bathroom bill,” the issue is actually included in multiple bills, as various Republican lawmakers try different angles to accomplish Patrick’s goal of restricting public bathroom use by transgender people to those corresponding to their “biological sex.” Bills filed so far on the topic include Senate Bills 3, 23, and 91, and House Bills 46 and 50. Senate Bill 38 has been filed to attempt to protect the rights of transgender people. Discussion is expected to occupy much of the floor debate time, possibly sidelining other issues.

The full text of the letter reads:

Dear Speaker Straus and members of the Bexar County Delegation:

Texas businesses depend on many things in order to sustain economic growth in our state, including attracting a skilled workforce to our state. This is why the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio Area Superintendents oppose any legislation that seeks to regulate bathroom usage in public spaces and public schools.

Currently, campus administrators are able to accommodate students and families, for any number of reasons, in order to ensure privacy and dignity to each child who attends our area public schools. This includes the use of a bathroom in a clinic or faculty area depending on the situation allowing for true privacy protection of each child who attends our area schools. In short, the proposed legislation offered during the 85th Legislature was seeking to solve a problem that does not exist in our schools.

Governor Greg Abbott recently remarked to a group of constituents that, “In education, one size does not fit all. There’s a different size for each student.” We agree that each student is unique with varying interests and career paths. If the Governor and others trust and allow for local ISDs to develop

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individual and creative approaches for educating students, why would we not do the same with regards to privacy issues?

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and our San Antonio area superintendents strongly believe that the best way to serve our young people and ensure their safety and privacy is to allow decisions to be made by those closest to them. That would be our local ISDs, the administrators who manage the campuses, and a child’s parents/guardians.

As this issue continues to be discussed during this special session, we hope to serve as a resource in the dialogue and share our perspective on the issue. We all want to ensure our children are safe, but more importantly, treated respectfully and with dignity.

On behalf of our nearly 2,100 San Antonio Chamber members, who provide more than 500,000 jobs in our city, and our 15 Superintendents who educate 327,000 children, thank you for your continued dedication to our state and our more than 5 million Texas school children.

If you should have any questions regarding this letter, please do not hesitate to contact Priscilla Camacho, VP of Education/Workforce Development at pcamacho@sachamber.org or 210-326-3751.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kevin Brown, Superintendent, Alamo Heights ISD
Mr. Roland Toscano, Superintendent, East Central ISD
Dr. Emilio Castro, Superintendent, Edgewood ISD
Dr. Gail Siller, Superintendent, Fort Sam Houston ISD
Mr. Rey Madrigal, Superintendent, Harlandale ISD
Dr. Carl Montoya, Superintendent, Judson ISD
Dr. Burnie Roper, Superintendent, Lackland ISD
Dr. Brian Gottardy, Superintendent, North East ISD
Dr. Brian Woods, Superintendent, Northside ISD
Mr. Lance Johnson, Superintendent, Randolph Field ISD
Mr. Pedro Martinez, Superintendent, San Antonio ISD
Dr. Greg Gibson, Superintendent, Schertz-Cibolo-University City ISD
Dr. Abe Saaverda, Superintendent, South San Antonio ISD
Mr. Mark Eads, Superintendent, Southside ISD
Dr. Lloyd Verstuyft, Superintendent, Southwest ISD
Mr. Richard Perez, President & CEO, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce

cc: Office of the Governor
Office of the Lt. Governor
Senate Committee on Education
House Committee on Public Education

Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.