South Dakota House panel votes to void transgender students sports policy

South Dakota state capitol in Pierre.

South Dakota state capitol in Pierre.

PIERRE, S.D. — A measure that would reverse a state athletic association policy and require transgender students to play on the same sports team as the gender on their birth certificates easily passed its first legislative committee test on Monday.

South Dakota state capitol in Pierre.

South Dakota state capitol in Pierre.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 10 to 2 to support a measure voiding a High School Activities Association policy on transgender student participation in sports.

The association in June adopted a policy requiring it to review requests by transgender students or their guardians to decide on which team the student can participate.

Republican Rep. Jim Bolin of Canton, who is sponsoring the measure to void the policy, said the association made a “significant error.” Mark Chase, president of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, a conservative group, pushed the committee to support Bolin’s measure and said there are anatomical differences between girls and boys that the policy doesn’t adequately address.

Chase also brought up concerns over locker room and bathroom use.

But opponents of Bolin’s bill told the committee that sports should be open to student choice regardless of gender identity.

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Lindsey Riter-Rapp, a lobbyist for the activities association, told the committee that the policy was thoughtfully considered and not simply enacted overnight. Association executive director Wayne Carney, reached after the meeting, said the group is watching the legislation “very closely,” but declined to comment further.

Andrea Kosters, a transgender student from Emery, South Dakota, who identified as a girl, told the committee that when she tried to be a cheerleader, the school made her dress in a boy’s uniform.

Kosters, 18, said she thinks Bolin’s bill is unfair and said she doesn’t want other kids like her to be denied who they are.

“Either way there’s going to be some judgment going on and some bullying,” Kosters said after the hearing. “But, for me, if I were to ever get bullied, I’d rather get bullied as who I am instead of a fake costume, like I’m somebody I’m not.”

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