State Board of Education Votes to Restrict Transgender Girls from High School Sports
In a pivotal decision on Thursday, August 31, the Alaska State Board of Education voted to support a proposal banning transgender girls from participating in high school girls’ athletic teams, sparking a debate over fairness and inclusivity in school sports. This controversial regulation, which was approved in a special session by a 7-1 vote, mandates that participation on separate in high school girls’ athletic teams be restricted to individuals assigned female at birth. This decision now rests in the hands of Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy’s appointee, Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor, who will assess whether it should be put into effect. However, in previous months, Dunleavy has asserted that this regulation is essential to maintain fairness within girls’ sports.
The recent meeting of the board followed months of deliberation and a substantial volume of public input. According to an article from Tim Rockey in Alaska Public Media, public input included approximately 1,400 pages of comments, most rejecting the possibility of the ban. This did not sway the vote. Mark Thiessen, a reporter for the Associated Press explained in an article that during the deliberations, board members voiced their perspectives on the matter. For instance, Bob Griffin, a board member, argued that biological males generally hold a significant competitive advantage over biological females in most sports, emphasizing the need to ensure fairness and equity for cisgender women and girls.
However, Felix Myers, the high school student representative on the board, offered a different perspective. Myers asserted that transgender students are not seeking a competitive advantage but rather a chance to participate as their authentic selves. He stated, “If someone is truly going to go out of their way to identify this way, that is a huge sacrifice. They are the bravest students among us.” Myers advocated for acceptance, loyalty, and hard work as the values that should guide the treatment of student athletes.
The Anchorage School District, the largest in the state, expressed its disappointment with the board’s decision in a statement issued after the vote. Board President Margo Bellamy and Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt questioned the urgency of this topic: “With all the current challenges facing Alaska’s public schools, it’s quite perplexing that this topic is a top priority for the Alaska State Board of Education (SBOE). Where is the data that indicates this is a widespread issue in Alaska which provides an unfair competitive advantage and/or risk to student safety?” They affirmed the district’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students and congratulated Myers.
This is not the only condemnation of this measure. Kendra Arciniega, a local community organizer and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate the measure by stating: “This decision by the SBOE is a symptom of a national cancer that has now touched down here at home; highly politicized national-level talking points and transphobic fearmongering made its way into our communities and now our leaders are going after a problem that simply does not exist here. It’s not ‘proactive’ whatsoever — it’s discrimination.”
At least 22 states have already implemented laws restricting transgender students’ participation in K-12 school sports, with some applying similar restrictions to college athletics. However, Alaska’s proposal is unique in that it does not stem from legislative action but rather originates from a decision made by the state’s education board. The decision by SBOE reflects the ongoing nationwide debate over transgender student participation in school sports. It underscores the complexities surrounding competitive fairness, inclusivity, and the rights of transgender individuals. As the proposal now awaits the assessment of Attorney General Treg Taylor, the fate of transgender girls’ participation in Alaska’s high school sports hangs in the balance, and the conversation around this issue is expected to continue.