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South Dakota Considering Bill Barring Transgender Students From Competing Against Opposite Biological Sex

On Monday, two Republican legislators in South Dakota introduced a bill that would throw out the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s 2015 policy allowing transgender students to join sports teams of the gender they choose, instead of their biological sex.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) and Rep. Brunner (R-Nisland). Bolin served as mayor of Canton, South Dakota, from 2007 to 2008; before that, he served as the athletic director of the Canton Public Schools from 1996-2007. He said he brought forth the legislation in order to ensure fair competition, adding that he wanted to emulate Texas. As The Argus Leader notes, “Texas’ University Interscholastic League requires that students participate on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate.”

​Bolin stated:

I believe the activities association is a very good group, but I think they made a bad decision when they implemented this policy four, five years ago. We have sports that are set up — boys go over 39-inch hurdles in 110 meters and girls have to clear 33-inch hurdles in 100-meter hurdles. We have a smaller ball for girls basketball than we do for boys basketball. If we’re going to have these modifications, then my point is that the birth certificate should be the determining factor in which team you play on. It’s all about fair competition.

US News & World Report said Bolin stated, “I just firmly believe that those who are males should play in sports designated for males and those who are females … should play in sports designated for females, according to your birth certificate. It’s about fair competition, and we’re not breaking any new ground.” He added, “This has nothing to do with bathrooms, locker rooms or shower rooms. This has only to do with the eligibility for athletic competition.”

SDHSAA Executive Director Dan Swartos informed the Argus Leader that the association intended to protect its current policy. He said a “small number” of students are currently competing as transgender athletes. The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota opposes the bill offered by Bolin and Brunner. Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota, stated:

Barring transgender students from the benefits of athletics holds them back from living authentic and fulfilling lives. Participation in athletic activities has a widespread impact on the social, physical and emotional well-being of students and provides kids with lessons about self-discipline, teamwork, perseverance, success and failure. They bring excitement, joy and a sense of belonging — a sense that is important for all kids, but particularly for kids who may already feel like outcasts.

The 2015 policy required the student and their parent to inform the school of the student’s intent to play on a team matching their chosen gender; the school would then submit an application and documentation to the South Dakota High School Activities Association. A licensed attorney then would examine the request.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said Noem is studying the newly-introduced bill, but has not made a decision whether to support it or not.

The issue of whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in high school sports of the opposite biological sex has triggered much debate; last June in Connecticut, a biological boy broke the State Open records for girls in both the 100 and 200-meter runs, while the runner-up in the 100 meter dash for girls was also a biological boy, as seen below.

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