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Nebraska School Activities Association Unveils Draft Transgender-Student Policy

The Nebraska School Activities Association voted on Dec. 9 to advance a draft gender policy to a final reading in its January board meeting, setting the stage for transgender student-athletes to have a formal policy in place for their participation in extracurricular athletics.

If the policy passes as is, transgender students interested in participating in athletics must contact a school administrator or athletic director in writing, informing them of their "consistent gender identity different than the sex" on their birth certificate. If the school determines the student "meets the requirements for initial eligibility," it must file an application to the state association.

Once the association receives the application, its Gender Identity Eligibility Committee will review it and send its decision in writing to the school and the executive director of the organization. The committee will consist of a physician with experience in transgender health care; a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed mental health professional; a school administrator from a non-appealing school; and a NSAA staff member.

As part of the application, transgender students must provide documentation "affirming the actions, attitudes, dress, and manner and demonstrate the student's consistent gender identification and expression," along with written verification from a health-care professional to affirm the student's gender identification. They must also provide medical documentation "of hormonal therapy, sexual re-assignment surgery, physiological testing, counseling, and other medical or psychological interventions on behalf of the student."

For the committee to rule in favor of allowing the transgender student to play the sports consistent with his or her gender identity, it must decide the student "affirms and exhibits the consistent gender identity and expression" to which he or she relates. He or she must also have submitted "creditable documentation" from others affirming his or her gender identity, along with "submitted creditable written verification from an appropriate health-care professional."

Transgender females (male-to-female) must go through an additional step before the committee declares them eligible to compete in female sports. The committee must verify they have either undergone "medically confirmed gender reassignment procedure" or have completed at least one year of hormone treatment. The students also must not "possess physical (bone structure, muscle mass, and/or testosterone hormone levels, etc..) or physiological advantages over genetic females of the same age group."

The policy also touches upon transgender students' use of locker rooms and restrooms. If a transgender student has not undergone sex-reassignment surgery, he or she must use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with his or her birth sex, even if the association has approved the student to participate in activities with which the student identifies. Alternatively, he or she may be assigned private bathroom and locker room facilities aligning with his or her gender identity.

"We're in a fairly conservative area of the country," said Jim Tenopir, the association's executive director, to Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald. "We wanted to assure a level playing field, assure competitive balance, and protect the safety of young people, and address personal privacy interests of all students."

According to Hammel, the association's board of directors will host its final reading of the policy on Jan. 14, at which point it will vote whether to enact it.

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