By DAVID BOYLE
A biological male student who identifies as a female has enrolled in the girls track and field competition at a local Anchorage middle school, Must Read Alaska has learned.
For the privacy of the child, MRAK is not disclosing the name of the school, but is aware that parents, coaches, and students know of the new twist in the track and field program.
The incidence stands out as an example of how girls’ sports are being slowly consumed by transgender students, almost always boys competing in girls’ divisions, rather than the reverse.
Senate Bill 140, currently being considered in the Alaska Legislature, would prevent this from happening. The Even Playing Field Act, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Hughes and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Shower and Lora Reinbold, would limit participation in girls’ athletic events to biological females.
The bill has been tabled for now, after being subject to dozens of amendments from Democrats, who tried to gut the bill during a floor session that started Tuesday and went into Wednesday. The Democrats are attempting to filibuster the bill to prevent it from having time to pass in the Alaska House of Representatives, a strategy that appears to be working.
Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski tried to amend the bill by removing all of its current language and leaving it only to say school boards have the authority to set policy about gender cross-overs in sports. That amendment failed 10-10, even with Republican Sens. Natasha von Imhof and Bert Stedman joining the eight Democrats to support Wielechowski’s gutting of the bill.
Sen. Hughes says it’s not practical for school districts to set their own policies because students and schools compete against each other in tournaments from different school districts. If Anchorage allows biological males to compete in girls’ divisions, but the Mat-Su Borough does not, the teams will not be competing on level playing fields. It creates a patchwork of policies.
Sen. Tom Begich offered an amendment that would have tied federal funding to complying with the legislation. His amendment reads, “A school or a school district that receives federal funding does not have to comply with AS 14.18.150 if compliance might result in the loss of federal funding.” Every public school in Alaska receives federal funding in one form or another.
Wielechowski cited the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling protecting gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination in employment. The DOE stretched this ruling to include students. Wielechowski cited the US Department of Education’s interpretation of a US Supreme Court ruling protecting gay, lesbian, and transgender people from discrimination in employment. The DOE stretched this ruling to include students.
The DOE’s interpretation said that discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity would be a violation of Title IX. This is the law that also said that schools/districts must provide equivalent athletic opportunities for girls. But the new guidance from the federal government DOE does not carry the force of law. It is more like a suggestion.
During the debate on Wednesday, Sen. Reinbold asked to be excused for the day because she was feeling ill. At that point the bill was tabled and the Senate recessed.
The bill sponsors argue the bill is needed because biological males have superior muscle mass, strength, and lung capacity, giving them an advantage over biological females in sports competitions. Males would win in many female sports competitions, including track & field, wrestling, golf, swimming, and basketball. Because a biological male self-identifies as a female does not erase his physical advantages over biological females when it comes to sports competitions. The competition would be slanted in favor of biological males.
The Alaska Association of School Boards opposes the legislation. The AASB argues that there really is not much evidence of female sports being adversely affected by transgender athletes. The AASB’s arguments provide the talking points for those legislators opposed to SB140. Sens Begich, Wielechowski, and Jesse Kiehl used these very talking points to try to kill the bill with amendments.
The Anchorage School District has spelled out its policy for sports activities in its “Administrative Guidelines for Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students and Employees.”
The guideline states, “All students will be permitted to participate in intramural sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity consistently expressed at school. Furthermore, all students will be permitted to participate in District-sponsored interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity. ASAA determines its own rules for interscholastic competitions.”
The limiting factor are the words, “consistently expressed at school.” The concept of “consistently” is not defined in the document.
In 2016, the transgender athlete controversy was stirred up in Alaska after a Haines boy-to-girl transgender competed in state meets in the girls’ division. Read about it here.
With only six days left in the session, it’s doubtful the bill will pass the House before adjournment, but Hughes would like to at least have everyone on record in the Senate. The bill would have to be reintroduced next year, due to the end of the two-year session next week.