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Spring Branch ISD Implements Changes to Address Budget Deficit and Biological Gender Bathroom Policy, Faces Backlash

In a significant move to address a $35 million deficit, the Spring Branch Independent School District (ISD) Board of Trustees voted on Monday to close five schools and revise its bathroom policy, prompting both cost-saving measures and controversy.

Trustees voted 6-1 to modify the restroom policy, now stating that “individuals are required to use the facility that corresponds to their gender assigned at birth.” While the reason for this alteration remains unclear, Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Blaine assured the public that special accommodations were already in place based on students’ requests to provide a comfortable restroom experience.

However, this decision drew criticism from some community members who argued that the policy adversely affects transgender students. Mandy Giles, founder of Parents of Trans Youth, expressed during public comment, “These three policies send a clear message to your transgender students that they are not safe or welcome at Spring Branch ISD schools.”

Giles emphasized that transgender students are not seeking to access spaces but simply wish to be themselves, stating, “Trans kids just are who they are and don’t transition to gain access to spaces because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s not an easy life to be a trans kid in Texas right now.”

Simultaneously, trustees voted to close several Spring Branch ISD school campuses as part of the district’s efforts to address budget shortfalls for the 2024-2025 school year. The affected campuses include Panda Path School for Early Learning, Treasure Forest Elementary, KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School, YES Prep Northbrook Middle School, and YES Prep Northbrook High School.

Community members voiced their concerns during the meeting, highlighting racial and economic disparities resulting from the closures. Stella Sanchez, a Spring Branch parent, expressed her dissatisfaction, saying, “All those students, kids from Treasure Forest, Northbrook, Landrum, they’re all Hispanics, just like me. It’s not fair. Not fair at all.”

The district, with around 34,000 enrolled students, has a population where 59 percent are Hispanic, and 58 percent of those students are economically disadvantaged, according to district profile data.

Spring Branch ISD officials released a statement estimating that the implemented cuts will result in $8.8 million in yearly savings, with an additional $23 million expected from reductions in the central office. The closures and policy changes have sparked a heated debate within the community, underscoring the challenges faced by the school district in reconciling budgetary constraints and community expectations.