Transgender athletes policy revised after GOP criticism

Transgender athletes policy revised after GOP criticism


Transgender athletes policy revised after GOP criticism


State news 2 tile

State news 2 tile

PIERRE Proposed changes to an association policy for transgender high school athletes would not limit them to the same team as the sex identified on their birth certificates, raising the possibility of a second legislative session of conflict over a rule that many Republicans lawmakers want to jettison.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association is set to discuss the proposed changes at a board of directors meeting on Wednesday. The new policy contains many of the same provisions as the old rules, which were adopted last June, but offers some changes in response to legislative concerns. Some Republican lawmakers doggedly pushed legislation during the 2015 session to void the policy, but the proposals ultimately languished in the Senate after overwhelmingly passing through the House of Representatives.

The association’s policy aims to provide a way for transgender students to participate on the sports teams that reflect their gender identities rather than the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The policy directs schools to help transgender students apply to the Activities Association with the correct documentation. An independent hearing officer, rather than the committee prescribed under the existing policy, would then make a recommendation to the Activities Association Board of Directors, which would have the final say over the student’s request.

An Activities Association survey of schools that will be reviewed at the Wednesday meeting reports that more than 60 percent of schools surveyed want a statewide association policy on the subject.

“We’re going to continue to try to meet the needs of our schools and at the same time answer the concerns from our Legislature,” said Wayne Carney, executive director of the Activities Association.

The new policy could be adopted in August, though it will likely still face considerable opposition.

Rep. Jim Bolin, a Republican from Canton, sponsored a proposal in 2015 to void the policy. Bolin said his concern is only regarding minors.

He said he hadn’t had a chance to review the association’s proposed changes, but it didn’t appear likely that he would support any policy that would allow minors to play on a team different from the sex on their birth certificates, which he stressed is an official state document.

Bolin said that “someone who cannot vote and who cannot drop out of school, that decision has been removed from you, and who cannot wear a t-shirt to school that says, for instance, ‘Budweiser, breakfast of champions,’ … that individual minor cannot make that claim.”

Bolin said he anticipates certain lawmakers will pursue similar legislation to block the policy during the 2016 legislative session. The Athletics Association survey reported that 51 percent of schools surveyed did not want a legislatively adopted policy on transgender student participation in sports.

So far a student hasn’t applied under the policy, Carney said in an email.

Jason Huska, activities director at Vermillion High School, said it’s important to have the policy in place proactively.

“I think it’s good that we’re at least thinking ahead,” he said. “We don’t know when a situation like that will occur, and it’s better to have something in place and be ready.”


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