S.D. high school group considers activities policy for transgender students

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota High School Activities Association is considering a policy on transgender students that would allow them to participate in activities according to their identified gender, not necessarily the gender listed on their records.

school-sportsAs defined in the policy, a transgender person is someone who doesn’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth.

The association’s attorney is currently reviewing the policy. Wayne Carney, executive director of the association that governs high school sports and fine arts events across the state, expects it to be approved in June. It will be effective as soon as it passes.

“I’m sure we’ll have a policy in place,” Carney said. “So we can adequately meet their (transgender students’) needs.”

He said there haven’t been any incidents or complaints in the state so far. A similar policy popped up five years ago in California and organizations across the country have followed suit.

Under the proposal, schools must review requests by transgender students or their guardians and decide which team the student can participate on. Then a Gender Identification Eligibility Committee will make the final ruling. The committee will consist of experts familiar with transgender health and gender identity. Students must seek the designation for genuine reasons and not to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

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Association Board Member Dan Whalen supports the policy but said it’s important to also consider safety and fairness, especially on high school women’s sports teams.

Whalen, the athletic director for the high school in Pierre, said even if someone identifies as a female, “that doesn’t necessarily change their physical being.”

He said some girls in the state compete in wrestling or football with boys, but boys aren’t allowed to play on girls’ teams. He wants to provide guidelines with the policy to help schools ensure equity and safety for transgender and non-transgender athletes.

The policy also calls on schools to provide gender-appropriate restrooms, use appropriate pronouns with transgender students and educate students and staff on transgender sensitivity.

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