Last year, the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) agreed to a new policy that would allow transgender students to participate in interscholastic athletics. Lawmakers are now pushing a bill that would eradicate that policy and instead impose a ban transgender student athletes. It advanced out of the House State Affairs Committee by a vote of 10-2 on Monday.
The SDHSAA’s policy is among the most protective in the country, affirming of trans students wherever they may be on their journeys, relying on support from medical professionals who have experience working with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, and guaranteeing “participation for all students regardless of their gender identity or expression” so that they can “compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive, and friendly environment, free of discrimination.” According to Rep. Jim Bolin (R), House sponsor of the bill, the organization made a “significant error.”
Bolin believes the the SDHSAA has “decided to essentially question the validity of birth documents of the state of South Dakota.” When he announced his intentions to advance the bill last month, he told the organization that he believed it had made a “very bad decision” that “raises profound issues about the nature of high school sports in our state.” The conservative South Dakota Family Policy Council is supporting the bill because it believes the policy does not address “anatomical differences” and it has concerns over locker rooms.
Bolin’s bill, HB 1195, would declare the SDHSAA policy void and require that “the sole determinant of a student’s sexual identity is the sexual identity noted on the student’s certificate of birth.” This would essentially ban transgender students from playing on the team that matches their gender identity.
Despite the concerns of Bolin and the Family Policy Council, transgender-inclusive athletic policies are becoming incredibly common — with no consequences to the “nature” of athletics. The Department of Education also recently issued guidance clarifying that transgender students are protected by Title IX in single-sex extracurricular activities, so Bolin’s bill may even contradict federal law.