Teaser

State association considers transgender ban on student sports

Change would limit girls teams to birth-assigned sex; public meeting scheduled Monday

A ban on transgender girls from girls sports teams is expected to be approved by the Alaska School Activities Association during a two-day meeting starting Monday in which the public will be able to participate.

The proposed change comes after the state’s board of education unanimously passed a surprise resolution at the end of a meeting in mid-March encouraging such a ban by the state Department of Education and Early Development. It essentially seeks to create two sports divisions, one for students whose birth-assigned sex is female and the other for all genders — although officials say there’s not nearly enough transgender athletes for the latter division.

Some officials also question if the ban is legal under existing state law. In addition, the Biden administration earlier this month proposed a rule change prohibiting statewide blanket bans while allowing limited restrictions when competitive fairness and/or injuries are at stake.

The ASAA meeting, accessible via Zoom, is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Monday, with public testimony beginning at 9:15 a.m. and no other business on the agenda for that day. While dozens of people have registered in advance to testify, the association said it is not accepting requests submitted after Thursday.

Discussions about the revised policy were initiated in February by officials working for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland following the education board’s meeting. The governor in early March also introduced a controversial “parental rights” bill many residents called hostile to LGBTQ+ students by, among other things, limiting their bathroom and locker room use to their birth sex.

The policy ASAA is scheduled to consider applies to team and contact sports, and gives districts three options for sports divisions:

— “Single- Division Sports: Whenever a school has a team in a given sport for one sex only, and athletic opportunities for the other sex have been limited, members of both sexes must be allowed to try out for the team.”

— “Double Division Sports: Whenever a school has two divisions in a given sport, one team shall be solely comprised of biological females, while the other team is open to both biological males and females. However, a biological female is ineligible to compete on both teams during the same school year.”

— “Coed Teams: Prior to the first contest of the season for a specific sport, a school may declare a team as a coed team. If a school chooses to have a coed team, then it may not have a separate team in that sport. Any school declaring a coed team may not compete in any district, regional or state competition in the girls’ playoffs. An exception to the playoff rule is made for mixed-six volleyball when a separate playoff category is provided by the Board of Directors.”

The legality of such a change is questioned by state Sen. Löki Tobin, an Anchorage Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee. She said there’s no state law related to such a policy and municipalities therefore are creating their own — Anchorage and Juneau have non-discrimination rules, for example, while the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has passed a transgender sports ban.

Tobin said she doesn’t know how many students in Alaska might be affected by a statewide ban.

“We don’t know and it’s kind of our business not to know,” she sad. “The local school boards make decisions about their students.”

At least two bills implementing transgender bans have been introduced this year, including one Friday by state Rep. Jamie Allard, a Eagle River Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee. A similar bill introduced during the first week of the session by Rep. Tom McKay, an Anchorage Republican, has not yet had a hearing.

Acting DEED Commissioner Heidi Teshner told the Alaska Beacon this week her department is working on regulation changes conforming to the state school board’s resolution, which she believes are legally valid and binding.

“This would be a regulation that districts and ASAA would have to follow,” Teshner said. “Within the next couple of months we will have a final draft.”

Strickland told the Beacon current regulations appear to be working so far, but the change on next week’s agenda appears to be necessary to keep schools enrolled in his association.

“If DEED makes this change in regulation, we really have no choice but to change our bylaws to such that schools get to give or maintain their membership,” Strickland said.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Rep. Sara Hannan (left) and Rep. Andi Story, both Juneau Democrats, talk during a break in floor debate Sunday, May 12, at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s legislative delegation reflects on lots of small items with big impacts passed during session

Public radio for remote communities, merit scholarships, fishing loans among lower-profile successes

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his vision for Alaska’s energy future at the Connecting the Arctic conference held in Anchorage on Monday. Next to him is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, invited to Anchorage to speak at this week’s Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy examining energy bills passed by Alaska Legislature

Expresses optimism about carbon storage bill, pondering next steps on royalty relief that failed.

(Michael Penn/ Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, May 19, 2024

For Sunday, May 19 Assault At 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, 32-year-old John… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, May 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Fay Herold, a delegate at the Alaska Democratic Party’s state convention, expresses concerns about a proposed change to the party’s platform on Saturday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Alaska Democrats gather in Juneau to make party plans for national convention in Chicago

Peltola, national party chairman among speakers; delegates get advice from protester at 1968 event.

A lamb-decorated headstone lays half hidden in a cemetery section in Douglas on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Shaky deals from past haunt efforts to preserve Douglas cemeteries today

As volunteers struggle to clear brush at historic sites, city leaders say they have limited options.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, May 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, May 16, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read