Irving ISD continues to fail to affirm and support LGBTQIA+ students

On September 15, hundreds of students walked out of MacArthur High School in Irving in a demonstration opposing the removal of “safe space” signs and in solidarity with faculty members who have reportedly been suspended for displaying them. This was our response.

Irving ISD’s latest statement shows they continue to lack understanding about what LGBTQIA+ youth need to be supported at school. Simply stating that their classrooms are a “safe zone” does not actually make them safe. Ignoring the message that their students are sending by walking out will not solve the problem.

Over the past six years, Resource Center has been attempting to work with Irving ISD to bring equal protection for LGBTQIA+ students from bullying and harassment – among other issues. The responses from the District have ranged from stonewalling to denial that there is a problem. We are saddened, but not surprised by their latest statement.

Below is a timeline that illustrates just some of the good faith efforts made by Resource Center over the past six years. 

Timeline of Correspondence with Irving ISD

2015

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In the wake of the Ahmed Mohamed case, Resource Center staff reached out to discuss anti-bullying policies and policies. 

No response from Irving ISD

2016

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Resource Center staff met with then-Associate Superintendent for Academics to discuss enumerated anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and draft rules for transgender athletes.

In an email to Resource Center staff, the Associate Superintendent said, “We did review our policies with our legal department and we do believe that our policies allow for the protection of all special classes.”

Irving ISD did not adopt any enumerated bullying or harassment policies for sexual orientation or gender identity for students. 

2018

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“Love is Love,” a book honoring the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, was removed by Irving ISD as supplemental material for a ninth-grade English class for “extreme homosexual content.” Resource Center met with Irving ISD’s then-Superintendent and then-Chief Legal Counsel along with State Representative Rafael Anchia. Resource Center sent follow up requests to Chief Legal Counsel asking for their reasoning behind the book’s removal.

Irving ISD evaded questions about whether the district had followed policy for removal of supplemental academic content and later cleared their conduct in this matter after an internal investigation.

2019

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Resource Center proposed a series of dates on which we could meet with Irving ISD trustees or the superintendent to discuss anti-bullying and anti-harassment.

This was our second attempt to engage Irving ISD in adding enumerated protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

We eventually met with Irving ISD legal counsel and a representative from the superintendent’s office asking for these changes. In early 2020, the subject was addressed at an Irving ISD School Board Meeting.

According to Texas State Representative Terry Meza, who engaged with the district alongside the Center, Irving ISD was worried that adding the wording might be “misconstrued to mean that Irving ISD had a problem.”

2021

Hundreds of students walk out of MacArthur High School over reports that LGBTQIA+ “safe space stickers” were removed from classrooms and teachers were reportedly suspended over them.

The district claims that developed guidelines to “ensure that posters, banners and stickers placed in classrooms, hallways or offices are curriculum driven and neutral in viewpoint.”

This is how we responded. 

The district’s actions and response following the student walk out has been inadequate and shows they continue to lack understanding about what LGBTQIA+ youth need to be supported at school.

We're calling on the school district to take actionable steps to make its facilities a more inclusive and welcoming safe place for all.

  • Return any/all teachers to the classrooms who have been suspended due to supporting LGBTQIA+ student safe spaces.
  • Develop a comprehensive, inclusive plan to support LGBTQIA+ students, including a commitment for Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) on every high school campus to promote dialogue and understanding.
  • Provide administration and staff training on LGBTQIA+ identities and risk factors faced by LGBTQIA+ students in Texas.

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