Equity & Diversity

S.D. Considering Changes to Policy on Transgender High School Athletes

By Bryan Toporek — June 11, 2015 1 min read

In response to legislative attempts to quash its policy governing transgender student-athletes, the South Dakota High School Activities Association considered changes to the policy at a board of directors meeting Wednesday.

The state association’s board of directors originally adopted the policy by a 4-1 vote last June. It allowed high school student-athletes to participate on teams “consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on a student’s records.” Transgender students wishing to participate on sex-segregated sports teams that differ from the sex assigned to them at birth would first have to notify their school, submitting documentation proving their gender identification. Upon receiving that information, the school is required to submit a “Transgender Application” to the state association, which refers the application and documentation to its Gender Identification Eligibility Committee for a decision.

The policy drew the ire of some Republican lawmakers, who introduced legislation this past legislative session to overturn it. While the bill passed through the state House of Representatives on a 51-16 margin, it languished in the state Senate before ultimately failing in the Senate education committee. Another bill, which likewise passed 46-23 in the state House before failing in the Senate, sought to prohibit the association from “establish[ing] policy relating to sexuality or gender identity, other than the basic distinction between the male and female high school activities.”

Rep. Jim Bolin, the House sponsor of the bill, told Dana Hess of the S.D. Newspaper Association that the activities association “has made a very bad decision with little or no publicity or public input on this question that raises profound issues about the nature of high school sports in our state.”

In response to the legislative pushback, the state association discussed a revised version of the policy at its board of directors meeting Wednesday, which Bob Mercer of the

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.