Minnesota Votes to Table Transgender Athlete Policy After Heated Debate
Transgender student-athletes in Minnesota will have to wait a few more months before new rules are enacted regarding their participation in high school athletics.
The board of the Minnesota State High School League unanimously voted Thursday to temporarily table a proposed policy that would have defined specific situations in which transgender student-athletes could participate on sports teams consistent with their declared gender identity (as opposed to the one they were assigned at birth), according to a statement posted on the league's website. Originally, the board was set to vote on the policy Thursday, but an overwhelming public response both in favor and opposed to the policy caused the board to push back a vote until its next meeting on Dec. 4.
"The board is saying, 'Let's walk forward to get it right. Let's do it as quickly as we can,' " league executive director Dave Stead told David La Vaque of the Star Tribune. " 'Let's bring information forward so people can talk about what the issues happen to be.' "
According to La Vaque, board members "received an estimated 10,000 emails" regarding the proposed policy, both in favor and opposed to it. Roughly 40 individuals spoke about the proposal during a two-hour workshop session Wednesday afternoon and during the board meeting on Thursday, according to the statement on the league's website.
The latest draft of the policy, which the league posted on its Facebook page Thursday, simplified the process for schools to determine when a transgender student-athlete could participate on sports teams consistent with their gender identity:
If a student or his/her parent(s) or legal guardian(s) notify the school in writing that he or she has "a different gender identity than listed on the student's school registration records or birth certificate" and hopes to participate on a sports team consistent with that gender identity, the school must review the student's gender identity used for school registration records along with "documentation from medical personnel, acting within their scope of licensure, that the individual has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is receiving appropriate clinical treatment."
"I believe we need to put a transgender policy in place for all our member schools," said board member Tom Graupmann, the activities director at Northfield High School, in a statement posted on the state league's website. "But more work and collaboration needs to be done. The current draft doesn't have the structure that we need."
During the meeting Thursday, the board also voted to create a committee on transgender policy, per a comment posted to its Facebook page, "with [the] goal of having all information available for [the] Dec. 4 board meeting."
John Helmberger, the chief executive officer of the Minnesota Family Council, issued a statement praising the board for tabling the policy for now.
"The policy drafts so far have defined 'gender identity' as 'a person's deeply felt internal sense of being male or female.' We firmly believe that all students should be permitted to play high school athletics within the realm of the school's eligibility requirements, and this means that student athletes play within the bounds of physical realities—not 'internal senses'—for the sake of all students involved."
Clearly, the state league's transgender committee has a great deal of work to do in the coming months before the next board meeting on Dec. 4. For now, the transgender athlete rules remain in limbo.
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