Schools can decide on transgender athletes

ANCHORAGE – Alaska’s governing body for high school activities says it is leaving it up to schools to decide what teams transgender students can compete on.

Billy Strickland, executive director of the Alaska School Activities Association, said Wednesday that the organization will not make gender-identity determinations for schools. It also won’t hear appeals from those who object to a school’s decision on whether to allow students to play on teams based on the gender they identify with rather than their biological sex.

“Ultimately, we look at this as a participation issue,” Strickland told the Alaska Dispatch News. “The school districts have to get into the nuts-and-bolts policies.”

If schools do not have their own guidelines on the issue, then a student “may only participate based on their gender assigned at birth,” Strickland said.

The association’s board of directors adopted a transgender policy last week that says gender determination will remain in effect throughout a student’s high school career. It goes into effect July 1.

“If a male-to-female student is allowed to participate on a girls’ team, they can only participate on girls’ teams for the remainder of their career,” Strickland said. “You can’t feel like a boy for wrestling and a girl for basketball.”

Strickland said high school associations in about 30 states have adopted transgender policies, and that they have done so mainly for parents.

At state sporting events, Strickland said ASAA will make “any reasonable accommodation” when it comes to the use of locker rooms by students. If a transgender student wants a private place to dress “we’ll figure out a way to make that happen,” he said.

ASAA is encouraging Alaska school districts to establish their own policies regarding transgender participation on sports teams to ensure they comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender. If they don’t, “they could be considered out of compliance with Title IX,” which could jeopardize a school or district’s federal funding.

When it comes to transgender athletes, the U.S. Office of Civil Rights “believe(s) this falls under Title IX, and schools should allow students to participate based on the gender they identify with,” Strickland said.

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