A sign opposing the participation of transgender girls in girls sports is propped against a fire hydrant outside of the George A. Navarre Admin Building on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in Soldotna. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign opposing the participation of transgender girls in girls sports is propped against a fire hydrant outside of the George A. Navarre Admin Building on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in Soldotna. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Ban on transgender girls from girls’ sports teams approved 5-3 by state school sports association

Juneau officials say enforcement specifics — and if they affect any local athletes — to be determined.

A ban on transgender girls competing on girls’ high school sports teams was approved by the Alaska School Activities Association in a 5-3 vote on Monday, formally implementing a regulation the state board of education passed in August.

How the ban will be implemented and enforced in the Juneau School District — and if it actually affects any local athletes — is still to be determined. The rule officially takes effect 30 days after the association’s vote.

“The Juneau School District has existing policies to ensure equal opportunities for all students, including in athletics,” Superintendent Frank Hauser wrote in an email Tuesday. “The district is reviewing the new ASAA regulations regarding transgender athletes in light of existing law and policies. The (Juneau Board of Education) will be discussing this topic and the various options at upcoming board meetings.”

The next scheduled school board meeting is Oct. 24. Hauser also noted any proposed policy would first go to the district’s Policy Review Committee “in a public meeting and with opportunities for comment.”

School Board President Deedie Sorensen said no discussions about implementing or enforcing a transgender ban policy have occurred during the ongoing effort to implement one and “the board would be looking for some information from the superintendent relative to this.” She also said she is not aware of any transgender high school athletes in the district.

“It seems to be a solution without a problem,” she said.

The ASAA ban is one of the policies restricting transgender rights Gov. Mike Dunleavy has sought that include “parental rights” legislation with requirements such as schools notifying parents if a child asks to go by a different name or pronoun, and having the governor-appointed state board of education approve the ban for girls sports teams. The bill stalled after an intense battle dominated by public comments in opposition, but the state education board in August voted in favor of a regulation imposing a sports ban.

However, there was an additional complication because an April memo by ASAA attorneys stated

“The Department of Education and Early Development (‘DEED’) does not have direct authority over ASAA’s operations, bylaws or policies” the memo states. “DEED does, however, have the ability to indirectly regulate ASAA by modifying the regulation that sets the terms on which Alaska school districts can allow their students to participate in ASAA.”

As such, the concern was not passing a ban might mean districts would be unable to participate in ASAA-run sports, Billy Strickland, the association’s executive director, told the Anchorage Daily News. While the official ban doesn’t provide specific instructions for implementing or enforcing the policy, Strickland told the newspaper schools should verify the sex assigned at birth of athletes the same way they verify the athletes’ age.

The policy isn’t an outright ban on transgender athletes in high school sports. Instead it would allow multiple divisions to be established, with one exclusively for “females who were assigned female at birth,” with transgender girls eligible to compete in a coed or boys team.

The previous ASAA language, now deleted from the policy, states “the Association will rely on a gender determination made by the student’s member school where the determination is based upon prior written and objective criteria adopted by the school; ASAA will not make separate gender identity determinations.

“However, once a member school determines a student may participate in an interscholastic activity, which does not match the gender assigned at birth, the determination shall remain in effect for the duration of the student’s high school eligibility,” the now-deleted provision adds.

A total of 23 states have passed laws restricting transgender athletes’ participation in school sports in accordance with their gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Alaska is among some other states that have enacted a ban through regulation.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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