DISD Organized LGBTQ Trainings at Elementary Schools

Dallas ISD staff at a training to lead effort to support LGBTQ students | Image by Dallas ISD
Dallas ISD staff at a training to lead effort to support LGBTQ students | Image by Dallas ISD

Dallas ISD organized LGBTQ training sessions at elementary schools in coordination with an employee of a local transgender clinic.

According to internal communications obtained in a public information request by The Dallas Express, that same employee expressed concern about potential backlash from parents and the Texas government.

Mahoganie Gaston, Dallas ISD’s coordinator of support services for LGBTQ youth, scheduled a series of trainings for teachers on “Supporting LGBTQ Youth” at elementary, middle, and high schools in 2022. She coordinated the sessions with Leslie McMurray, the transgender education and advocacy associate for the Resource Center, which has a clinic that facilitates transgender hormone usage and issues reference letters for cross-gender surgeries in Dallas.

“I hate I missed the training at [Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School] but I heard how awesome it was,” Gaston emailed McMurray, who identifies as a transgender woman, in January 2022. “That being said, can we offer that this semester? I have some training dates already set up that we can look at.”

“Of course, we would love to present the Rangel training to other schools or staff from the district,” McMurray responded. “The group at Rangel was fabulous. I loved their engagement and the questions they asked. I think we had around 30 in the room. If you have some dates in mind, please send them our way and I’ll check the calendar (I already have trainings being booked in April!)”

“Below are the dates I already have in the system for trainings for this semester,” Gaston replied with a schedule of planned trainings, half of which were for elementary schools. “Let me know if any of these work. There have been lots of questions on working with families, transgender youth and rights of LGBTQ students and staff. I think we can be creative and really give staff a full picture of what Resource Center offers as well as the Out for Safe Schools training.”

McMurray then expressed concern about the Resource Center’s lack of a curriculum for elementary schools, which she said could spark controversy.

“Of more immediate concern is the training for elementary staff,” McMurray emailed. “It’s scheduled for a week from today, and at present, we have not written a curriculum designed for that age group. That is possible — but I kind of need to know from you what that looks like. What is the starting point for them? What kinds of things are they looking for? The Whole segment on GSA’s is irrelevant — but maybe more time on terminology and the effects of bullying? We can provide a lot of information, but the State of Texas will determine how much can be taught.”

“Same with working with parents — if they are supportive, then you are in good shape. If not, you can’t override the wishes of those parents,” McMurray continued. “I’m happy to design something — just point me in the right direction.”

McMurray followed up six days later on the email chain with Gaston, who had not responded to the detailed concerns. Gaston eventually responded another four days later with a typo-filled email that appeared to be cut off in the obtained documents.

“I am so sorry. I don’t know how I missed the email. So they one that was reschudeled for,” the email read.

The email from Gaston ended the exchange.

The Out for Safe Schools program referenced in the emails is a joint effort by Dallas ISD and the Resource Center regarding how to train teachers to be “allies” to LGBTQ students. It is unclear if the scheduled trainings detailed in the emails were a part of this program.

Dallas ISD did not respond to a request for comment.

Documents obtained and previously reported on by The Dallas Express revealed Dallas ISD struggled to get teachers to sign up for the Out for Safe Schools program and appeared to bypass the proper certification process through the district. Dallas ISD and the Resource Center removed mentions of the program on their websites after the DX series was published.

Gaston asked McMurray in 2020 to provide Dallas ISD teachers with resources on “youth transitioning,” according to documents obtained and previously reported on by DX.

“Do you have any literature that you can provide about youth transitioning?” Gaston emailed. “A campus just called and wants to provide education materials to staff.”

McMurray then appeared to provide resources from the Human Rights Campaign, which endorses hormone inhibitors and transgender hormone usage for children. HRC was later cited by Dallas ISD in its “LGBTQ+ Resources” webpage, which was made private after a series of reports from DX about how it promoted transgender clinics.

According to the National Association of School Boards, which supports LGBTQ training for school employees, “School leaders are charged with the duty to create a school climate that is safe, welcoming, positive, and protective of all, including LGBTQ students. For LGBTQ students to be fully included and affirmed in their schools, administrators need opportunities to learn about and recognize the need for a continuous process of interrupting the systematic exclusion and stigmatization of LGBTQ students in all arenas of school life: curriculum, social culture, policy, extracurricular activities, school ceremonies, and rituals.”

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