Sat. Mar 25th, 2023

In an unannounced move, the Alaska board of education unanimously passed a resolution Thursday afternoon that urges the state education division to limit the participation of transgender girls in girls college sports.

The resolution, which is non-binding, encourages the Alaska Division of Education and Early Improvement to adopt a policy that would ban transgender girls from competing alongside girls who are cisgender — which means their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth — in college sports. The resolution asks the education division to make two sports divisions: 1 exclusively for students whose sex assigned at birth is female, and one more that would be open to all students of all genders.

The resolution was added unexpectedly to the agenda, on the tail finish of the Alaska board of education’s 3-day meeting in Juneau, which concluded Thursday.

Billy Strickland, director of the Alaska College Activities Association, stated the resolution closely mirrors a policy he discussed with members of the administration of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy final month. Strickland stated members of the governor’s administration approached him to go over banning transgender athletes from competing alongside cisgender athletes altogether, with the thought of making 3 divisions: 1 for girls, 1 for boys and 1 coed division that could accommodate transgender athletes.

Spokespeople for the governor’s workplace did not quickly respond to queries on Dunleavy’s position on the situation and no matter if he intended to instruct the division of education to adopt the policy outlined in the board’s resolution.

Strickland stated there are not adequate transgender athletes to populate a third division. In his nine years directing the organization that oversees higher college sports in Alaska, he stated he has heard of only 1 transgender athlete. As an alternative, Strickland told the Dunleavy administration it would be attainable to make a division only for cisgender girls, and an “open” division that could accommodate all other students, like transgender students. Girls currently routinely play alongside boys in Alaska on some football and hockey teams when equivalent teams for girls do not exist.

Beneath current regulations, it is up to person college boards and districts to adopt and implement policies pertaining to transgender athletes’ participation in college sports. Most districts do not have a policy at all, and only the Mat-Su college board has adopted guidelines limiting the participation of transgender athletes in teams that align with their gender identity, Strickland stated.

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The policy Strickland discussed in early February with members of the governor’s administration — whom Strickland declined to name — would need transgender girls to play in the open division alongside boys, but as Strickland understood it, transgender boys whose sex assigned at birth is female could select amongst the two divisions.

That regulation closely mirrored the 1 proposed in the non-binding resolution that passed Thursday at four p.m., shortly ahead of the board adjourned.

Members of the board and the division of education declined several requests for a copy of the resolution on Friday. Division spokesperson Laurel Shoop stated she could not offer a copy of the resolution mainly because it had but to be signed by board chair James Fields.

But according to a draft copy of the resolution obtained by the Everyday News, the board urged the Alaska College Activities Association to adopt the two-division proposal to safeguard “the integrity of higher college girls’ sports.”

“The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Improvement supports the passage of regulations proposed by the Alaska Division of Education and Early Improvement and reviewed by the men and women of Alaska to prioritize competitive fairness and security on the playing field when permitting all students to participate in activities,” the resolution states.

The eight-member board passed the resolution unanimously. The board’s student adviser, Maggie Cothron, abstained.

“We’re generating a statement of maintaining girls’ sports protected and competitive and fair, that is all,” Fields stated in a short interview immediately after the vote Thursday.

The resolution was brought by board member Lorri Van Diest, who did not quickly respond to a list of queries sent by e-mail Friday.

Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, stated Friday that the resolution had caught her “off guard” and that she had not discovered about it till immediately after it had passed. Tobin stated she was concerned that the board had violated its requirement to let the public to weigh in on resolutions ahead of they are adopted.

Tobin stated she was “very concerned” about the resolution possibly violating the suitable to privacy enshrined in the Alaska Constitution.

“What I’ve been capable to see, this resolution could possibly violate these provisions,” stated Tobin. “When I assume of the handful of young men and women we’re speaking about, I get pretty worried and scared about their security. Even the optics of it creates a predicament that could place some people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Tobin stated that her reading of the resolution indicates the regulations have currently been proposed by the education division. A spokesperson for the division did not respond to a query on no matter if the regulations have currently been drafted.

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“I am concerned mostly mainly because I am the chair of the state policy committee for education in the Senate,” stated Tobin. “I am concerned that the approach just was not followed, and that we weren’t capable to offer our public comment on this situation.”

Tobin stated that the Legislature can “nullify” proposed regulations proposed by the education division or any other state division.

“We offer the authority to our division to do that in regulation, but that does not imply they have carte blanche to enact a regulation package that the state Legislature does not think is in the intent and the directive of their energy,” Tobin stated.

The resolution from the Alaska education board — composed of folks appointed or reappointed by Dunleavy — comes on the heels of a measure introduced by Dunleavy that would influence the rights of transgender students in Alaska. Earlier this month, he proposed a bill that would need gender nonconforming students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their sex assigned at birth. That bill, which has not but been voted on by members of the Legislature, would also need parental approval for students in search of to modify the name or pronouns they use in schools.

Concerns on the participation of transgender athletes in sports have come up routinely in state legislatures, like Alaska’s, but Strickland stated he is not familiar with other states that have resolved the situation by making just two sports divisions.

“We could possibly come to be the cutting edge of how this is becoming handled,” he stated.

A bill that would limit the participation of transgender youngsters in college sports failed to pass the Senate final year, immediately after it was proposed by Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer. Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, proposed a equivalent bill earlier this year that would let transgender athletes to participate in a separate co-educational division, with other divisions reserved for boys and girls according to their sex assigned at birth. That bill has but to be scheduled for a hearing.

Members of the bipartisan Alaska Senate majority this year vowed to remain clear of divisive challenges, like bills pertaining to the rights of LGBTQ men and women.

Samuels reported from Anchorage and Maguire reported from Juneau.

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By Editor

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