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Minnesota High School League to Vote on Transgender-Student Rules

Come Thursday, transgender students in Minnesota could, for the first time, have rules in place regarding their participation in high school sports.

According to David La Vaque of the Star Tribune, the Minnesota State High School League is set to vote on a draft policy Thursday that aims to establish "a set of criteria in which student-athletes are able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive, and friendly environment, free of discrimination."

Under the policy, any transgender student who wishes to play on a sports team consistent with their gender identity (as opposed to their gender identity assigned at birth) must have his or her parent/legal guardian contact a school administrator to notify them of this wish. The school administrator may then review the student's gender identity used for school records, documentation from medical personnel, and "gender-identity related advantages for the student" (including size and skill).

If the school administrator does not allow the transgender student to participate on the sports team consistent with his or her gender identity, the student may file an appeal with the school. Following the appeal, the school administrator must send the decision, in writing, to the student's family and the executive director of the state high school league within five business days of the hearing.

Assuming the local appeal doesn't generate the desired result, the student can then appeal to the executive director of the state high school league. The executive director may consult with a licensed physician experienced with gender identification before making a decision. If the executive director affirms the local-level decision, the student may finally appeal to an independent hearing officer appointed by the state high school league's board of directors, whose ruling will be final.

The league's executive director, Dave Stead, told the Star Tribune that the NCAA and 32 states already have enacted "some sort of policy or procedure" regarding the athletic participation of transgender student-athletes. Last summer, for instance, California enacted a law allowing transgender student-athletes to choose which sex-segregated athletic team to join based on their gender identity. Opponents attempted to overturn the law as it went into effect; however, they failed to gain enough valid signatures to give voters a chance to overturn the measure, as my colleague Evie Blad reported earlier this year.

The Minnesota policy is proving equally controversial among some circles. The Minnesota Family Council, a religious-based advocacy group, wrote a strongly worded letter to board of directors president Scott McCready urging him and his fellow colleagues not to adopt the draft proposal. "The policy contravenes the religious freedom rights of its member schools, violates the rights of parents and students, and leaves its member schools vulnerable to civil liability," wrote the group's chief executive officer, John Helmberger. (The group is urging Minnesota residents to sign a petition in opposition of the policy.)

This past week, the Child Protection League Action paid for a full-page ad in the Star Tribune laying out concerns about the draft proposal, according to La Vaque. The Minnesota Catholic Conference also wrote a letter to the state high school league's board of directors over the summer in opposition to the policy, saying, "We believe that it is not a policy that serves the best interests of students."

Come Thursday, we'll see where the votes fall.

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