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Montana high school association to vote on policy for transgender student athletes

Montana high school association to vote on policy for transgender student athletes
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Montana High School Association is considering a policy that would allow transgender student-athletes to compete on the team that matches their gender identity.

MontanaThe proposed policy would enable Montana teens who were born male but identify as female to compete in girls’ events and would allow those who were born female but identify as male to compete in boys’ events.

“The MHSA allows all students, regardless of gender identity or expression, the opportunity to participate in a safe, competitive environment free of discrimination,” the proposed policy states.

Such language would follow the lead of high school associations in at least 33 other states, said Mark Beckman, MHSA executive director. It would also align with NCAA policy and recent federal guidance on Title IX, the law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in activities at schools receiving federal funds.

The policy would apply to the association’s 179 public and private member schools, Beckman told The Billings Gazette.

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The association has never been notified of a request or disputes regarding transgender athletes in Montana schools, Beckman said. He called it a proactive measure that would establish consistent procedures to protect both students and schools when requests do come in.

“Otherwise, it would be the individual school that would have to deal with this issue,” Beckman said.

High school girls are currently allowed to participate on boys’ wrestling and football teams, but boys may not compete on girls’ teams, and a long-standing court settlement related to Title IX stipulates that volleyball be sanctioned as girls-only.

Under the proposal, transgender students would apply for athletic eligibility […]

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Under the proposal, transgender students would apply for athletic eligibility through their school. The application would then be reviewed by a gender identity committee made up of medical professionals, MHSA officials and a student advocate, which would make a recommendation to the association’s executive board.

The policy was drafted and published in December in accordance with MSHA procedure, Beckman said. All member schools will vote on the change during the organization’s annual meeting on Jan. 19 in Kalispell. Approval requires a two-thirds vote.

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The ACLU of Montana commended the proposal as a potentially inclusive step by Montana schools that would allow transgender students to live and compete “in conformity with who they really are.”

However, the Montana Family Foundation, an advocacy group, called it a “bombshell” that would victimize other students and possibly give male-to-female transgender athletes an advantage over female opponents.

The policy would not require sharing of lockers and hotel rooms, Beckman said, just that transgender students who are deemed eligible are given an equal opportunity to participate. Individual schools could decide upon appropriate accommodations in consultation with their legal counsel.

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