S.D. considers revising transgender student athletes policy under pressure from GOP lawmakers

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PIERRE, S.D. — A South Dakota state activities association is proposing more revisions to its policy for transgender high school athletes as the organization works to create a policy that suits schools and lessens the concerns of lawmakers who have fought to throw out the rule.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association discussed the proposed changes at a board of directors meeting on Wednesday. The suggested revisions came after some Republican lawmakers repeatedly tried to pass legislation in 2015 to void the policy. It’s unclear if the changes will be enough to satisfy opponents, or when they’ll be finished.

The board voted Wednesday for staff to further revise the policy, likely pushing back finalization by months.

The policy broadly 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.

More than 60 percent of schools want a uniform activities association policy on transgender students’ participation, according to survey results reported by the association Wednesday, and more than half of schools surveyed don’t want a legislatively adopted policy.

Association Attorney Lindsey Riter-Rapp said she examined other states’ policies that provide protections to transgender students while making the revisions.

Board member Sandy Klatt called it a “hard issue.”

“Our policy is to help our member schools because that’s what we’re charged to do,” she said.

Efforts to block the policy during the 2015 session stalled in the South Dakota Senate after easily passing through the House.

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Republican Sen. Brock Greenfield, a key backer of legislation to end the policy, praised the association this week for continuing to work on the rules.

Republican Rep. Jim Bolin, who pushed a proposal to void the policy, has made it seem unlikely he would support any policy that would allow minors to play on a team different from the sex on their birth certificates, which he has stressed is an official state document. Greenfield, a senator from Clark, said he needed to review the changes before deciding how to proceed during the 2016 session.

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