Dallas ISD struggled to enroll teachers in its LGBTQ program — a failure one official described as “extremely frustrating,” according to email communications obtained through an open records request filed by The Dallas Express.

The emails revealed years of disappointment within Dallas ISD over the lack of enthusiasm from teachers to sign up for its Out for Safe Schools program, which it developed with the help of a local transgender clinic. The program was launched in 2018 and aims to instruct teachers on how to be LGBTQ student “allies.” The trainings were held in partnership with the Resource Center, which provides transgender hormones and clearance letters for sex alteration surgeries at its clinic on Cedar Springs Road.

The district deleted nearly all mentions of its Out for Safe Schools program after a series of reports from The Dallas Express on its promotion of transgender procedures.

Mahoganie Gaston, Dallas ISD’s coordinator of support services for LGBTQ youth, led the Out for Safe Schools project along with two employees of the Resource Center: Leslie McMurray, the transgender education and advocacy associate, and Rafael McDonnell, the senior advocacy, policy, and communications manager. Emails between the three showed it was a continuous struggle to convince teachers to sign up for the program.

“We have one person signed up for tomorrow,” Gaston emailed McMurray on February 10, 2021.

“With just one — we ought to push it back,” McMurray responded.

McMurray identifies as a transgender woman and used to be a radio personality in Texas. McMurray is married to Kathleen Sprinkle, who also identifies as a transgender woman and serves as a Dallas County Criminal Court magistrate. The transgender couple previously spoke at a Democratic Party event in Dallas.

The Out for Safe Schools trainings were conducted virtually in early 2021 due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Struggles with the program continued months later.

“Update. We still only have one person signed up for today,” Gaston emailed McDonnell on April 22, 2021.

“Ok. Let’s go ahead and cancel today & ask today’s participant to attend in May. Hopefully, the trustees can push out the training in the areas they represent & attendance will be higher for the final two sessions,” McDonnell responded.

“So we have like 5 people signed up for tomorrow……sigh. I blaming [sic] it on people are tired of zoom trainings and well there is just so much going on and we still have like a month of school left,” Gaston emailed McDonnell on May 19, 2021.

“Given that, what do you think we should do about the training in June? Should we make a big push to try and get people to sign up for that last training?” McDonnell responded.

“I don’t know what can be done different. I am posting on social media, emailing, etc. We need community support,” Gaston asserted.

Dallas ISD and the Resource Center did not respond to requests for comment.

The frustration continued as the trainings were subsequently scheduled to be in-person.

“So far there are 2 people signed up, which is extremely frustrating due to how many people always reach out about this training. I also had 2 non Dallas ISD employees email me about the training. I have sent reminder emails out about this Saturday,” Gaston emailed McDonnell on November 11, 2021.

“That’s not good. I wonder if people realize this is an in-person training?” McDonnell responded.

“I have stressed that information numerous times and explained that it is more interactive and we can be more transparent and have authentic conversations when it is in person,” Gaston wrote in response.

“Oh, I agree that it is frustrating. But I don’t think we can just do a four-hour training for just two people. It might be that we schedule two train-the-trainers in the spring — maybe one in February and one in late April/early May,” McDonnell wrote.

“I just checked no additional sign ups,” Gaston responded, adding a sad emoji.

“Regretfully, I think we regroup and just planned [sic] for two train the trainers in the spring. Let’s look at dates when we come back from Thanksgiving,” McDonnell concluded.

Gaston emailed McDonnell one month later to inform him there was only one sign-up for the training. They then agreed to reschedule.

One email sent by McDonnell included a document with guidance on how teachers can be “more trans inclusive.”

“Leslie [McMurray] found this resource published by ACLU, NEA and other groups that would be a good tool for educators wanting to be more trans inclusive. Not sure what is the best way to distribute it, so here is the PDF file,” McDonnell emailed Gaston on September 9, 2021.

The obtained emails show less communication in 2022. One email referenced LGBTQ training for elementary school staff.

“There are two Supporting LGBTQ trainings for elementary this month, I would like to take one of those dates to have someone share being Black in the LGBTQ community especially since it is Black history month. I think it is important to have those conversations with staff. [W]ill probably making [sic] it available for all staff ranges. With that being said, did you have a date preference for the month?” Gaston emailed McDonnell on February 16, 2022.

They later agreed to renew the partnership between Dallas ISD and the Resource Center in October 2022. One email revealed they eventually made progress that month with 10 sign-ups from teachers for one training.

Only five documents from 2023 were provided to The Dallas Express, none of which contained information on sign-ups for the program. One email titled “Accepted: LGBTQ Policy and Out for Safe Schools” was fully redacted.

The open records request was made for emails between Gaston and McDonnell between January 1, 2021, and January 8, 2024.

There were 15 redacted pages within the 127 pages obtained through the request. All were redacted for allegedly containing confidential information.