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Wis. School District Voluntarily Adopts Trans-Inclusive Athletics Policy

Wis. School District Voluntarily Adopts Trans-Inclusive Athletics Policy

When the Minnesota State High School League decided this month to adopt a trans-inclusive athletics policy, the controversy surrounding the debate may have seemed singular. However, more and more schools across the U.S. are grappling with how to fairly include their trans students in activities and facilities, as evidenced by an emotional debate that took place in Baraboo, Wis., Monday night.

In a starkly divided 4-3 vote, the Baraboo Board of Education elected to adopt a Transgender Participation Policy in line with nondiscrimination standards put forth by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, reports local TV station WTAQ.

School districts with membership in the WIAA agree to "ensure that all students have access and opportunities to participate in athletics without discrimination" based on numerous identifies, including "gender," "gender identity," and "gender expression." Members of the Baraboo High School Gay-Straight Alliance, joined by supportive faculty and local clergy members, argued that this policy clearly indicates that trans students should be able to be a part of sports teams and use the locker rooms and bathrooms that accord with their gender identity, notes WTAQ.

WIAA's policy is based on Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which, as the Department of Education recently made explicit, holds that schools "generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity" in single-sex activities and spaces.

"If this policy isn't passed, then we have only chosen to dig ourselves a hole," said Baraboo High School senior and Gay-Straight Alliance President Catherine Hartup, according to video of the debate published by Madison TV station WISC. "A hole where we can only care about some — not all — of our students here at Baraboo High School."

Opponents of the policy, however, argued that a trans-inclusive policy may contradict the religious beliefs of some residents and that more time was needed to discuss how access to facilities, like bathrooms, would work. The WIAA policy instructs administrators to allow trans students access to gender-appropriate bathrooms and educate themselves through sensitivity trainings.

After a heated two-hour discussion attended by 70 community members at a local library, the school board adopted a trans-inclusive policy similar to the Minnesota State High School League's and many others.

The WIAA policy requires any trans student to submit an affadavit to school officials stating that they are trans and, if they are undergoing hormone therapy, to submit medical documentation.

Trans male students undergoing testosterone therapy may only play on male teams. Trans female students who have undergone hormone therapy for a year may only play on female teams. If a school in the Baraboo district rejects a trans student's participation on a team, the student can go through an appeals process.

"It really does make sense to us to have a policy in place so we can give those tools [to schools]," Baraboo school board vice president Doug Mering explained to the Wisconsin State Journal. "It makes the process smooth and hopefully ...  we can protect the safety of not only transgender students, but all the students."

Mering added he does not yet know of any trans students in the Baraboo school system, but that adopting the policy is a way to be proactive. Wisconsin now joins Minnesota, California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, and several other states with trans-inclusive athletics policies.

According to Baraboo school board president Kevin Vodak — who voted against the measure, according to WISC — the new trans-inclusive athletics policy will go into effect as soon as it is printed.

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