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State bans Christian school from sports tournaments after it refused to play against trans athlete

girls playing basketball
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A Christian school in Vermont has been banned from competing in tournaments sponsored by the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) after its girls’ basketball team refused to play against a team that included a transgender student-athlete.

In February, the Mid Vermont Christian School’s girls’ basketball team forfeited a playoff game against Long Trail School, withdrawing from the Vermont Division IV state tournament. At the time, Valley News reported that MVCS sent a letter informing VPA’s assistant executive director that they would not be entering the tournament but did not explain why.

But in an email, MVCS head of school Vicky Fogg told the paper that, “We believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players.”

“Allowing biological males to participate in women’s sports sets a bad precedent for the future of women’s sports in general,” Fogg said.

On Monday, the VPA, which sponsors state athletic competitions and other activities and is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, informed MVCS that it had violated the organization’s anti-discrimination policies and that the school would be banned from future tournaments.  

In a statement, the VPA said that it “reiterates its ongoing support of transgender student-athletes as not only a part of building an inclusive community for each student to grow and thrive, but also as a clear expectation by Vermont state law(s) in the Agency of Education Best Practices, and in VPA Policy regarding transgender student-athletes.”

According to the organization’s athletics policies, “The VPA is committed to providing all students with the opportunity to participate in VPA activities in a manner consistent with their gender identity as is outlined in the Vermont Agency of Education Best Practices For Schools For Transgender And Gender Nonconforming Students.”

VPA’s executive director, Jay Nichols, told VTDigger that the 15-member board voted unanimously to expel the school.

“If you don’t want to follow VPA rules, that’s fine,” said Nichols. “But then you’re just not a VPA member. It’s fairly simple. That’s really all we’re gonna really say about it.”

Discrimination against transgender student-athletes is prohibited under Vermont’s Public Accommodations Act.

Earlier this year, MVCS was one of two private Christian schools that sought approval for state tuition money while attempting to sidestep Vermont’s anti-discrimination laws. In a January 5 statement, Fogg wrote that as a religious organization, MVCS “has a statutory and constitutional right to make decisions based on its religious beliefs.”

“To the extent Rule 2200’s requirement conflict with any of the school’s beliefs, including on marriage and sexuality, the school has not included that language in its handbook or online, nor can it affirm that particular aspect of the Vermont Public Accommodations Act,” Fogg continued.

“Cancelling our membership is not a solution and does nothing to deal with the very real issue of safety and fairness facing women’s sports in our beloved state,” Fogg wrote in a statement responding to the VPA decision this week. “We urge the VPA to reconsider its policies, and balance the rights of every athlete in the state.”

Thus far, 18 U.S. states have passed laws banning transgender girls from competing on school sports teams matching their gender identities — Vermont is not one of those states. In fact, the policies of the Vermont Agency of Education, the state agency overseeing schools, explicitly forbid “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender,” The Bennington Banner reports.

Earlier this year, MVCS Vermont Christian School sent a letter to the Agency of Education asking to continue receiving public taxpayer funds while being allowed to violate Vermont’s anti-discrimination laws.

Molly Sprayregen contributed to this article.

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