Transgender students would be allowed to compete in gender-specific high school sports that don’t align with the sexual designations on their birth certificates, under a proposal considered Tuesday by the South Dakota High School Activities
A transgender person is someone whose psychological gender identity doesn’t match the person’s physical sex at birth. The board wants its lawyer to analyze the policy, which is patterned after one in Illinois. The association is the governing body for high school sports and arts competition in South Dakota.
One of the directors, Pierre athletic director Dan Whalen, said the proposed policy protects the transgender student but his concern is safety of other students participating in a sporting event.
He said adoption of the policy is a commitment by the association that it will put girls into competitive situations with transgender boys who by nature can have a physical advantage.
“I’m going to tell you, I have a huge problem with that,” Whalen said.
The key piece of the proposal calls for a select committee of experts to review a student’s application for transgender status. The committee’s decision granting transgender status would be binding for the remainder of that student’s high school years.
The association’s staff originally considered using the NCAA policy on transgender athletes but scrapped that idea because college athletes are adults.
Another director, Aberdeen principal Jason Uttermark, said the policy calls for safety to be considered.
“Who makes the determination of safety?” he asked.
“That’s a great question, and I don’t know how to answer it,” said James Weaver, who presented the proposal. He is an associate executive director for the association.
It’s only “a matter of time” before a transgender student seeks to play on a team of the opposite physical sex in South Dakota, said John Krogstrand, another associate executive director.
“Right now, we have these kids in schools in South Dakota,” said Krogstrand, pointing out that the lack of a policy puts SDHSAA in “an indefensible position.”
“I think we need to get something in place, a starting point,” said the board’s chairman, Darren Paulson, of Rapid City Central High School. “I just worry, if we don’t have anything in place, where are we at?”