(The Hill) – Alaska’s state Board of Education voted Thursday to approve a proposal to ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ high school sports teams, advancing one of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s policy priorities that was thwarted by the state legislature earlier this year.
The proposal, which board members argued during a special meeting Thursday is necessary to ensure fairness for cisgender female athletes, states that “if a separate high school athletics team is established for female students, participation shall be limited to females who were assigned female at birth.”
The new regulation, if given final approval by Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor (R), would apply to schools and districts that join the Alaska State Activities Association (ASAA), the state’s regulating body for high school sports.
Current ASAA guidelines allow member schools to decide for themselves whether transgender athletes should be permitted to play on sports teams that do not match their sex assigned at birth. However, if a school determines that a transgender student is eligible to compete, that determination “shall remain in effect for the duration of the student’s high school eligibility.”
Transgender students attending member schools that do not have written policies in place “may only participate based upon [their] gender assigned at birth,” according to ASAA guidelines.
The proposal approved Thursday was initially put forward in June by members of the state’s education board, who, in addition to Taylor, were appointed by Dunleavy. During a 30-day public comment period, hundreds of Alaska residents submitted comments opposing the regulation.
An overwhelming majority of attendees at a public hearing in July spoke against the board’s proposal, prompting the group to end the meeting without a decision. Thursday’s special board meeting, which took place virtually on Zoom, was open to the public but did not include a public comment period.
“The Board has totally disregarded the ways this policy violates the privacy of young Alaskans, and sanctions wholesale discrimination against transgender children,” said Michael Garvey, the advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alaska.
“The decision to approve this proposal is a direct attack on Alaskan students who simply want to play sports, like any other kid,” he said.
A bill to require public and private schools to designate athletic teams based on students’ sex assigned at birth was introduced this session by Republicans in the state legislature but failed to advance out of committee. Another bill introduced by Dunleavy would have prevented transgender students from using restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.
Dunleavy last year called on the state legislature to pass a law barring transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams. In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, last year, Dunleavy said allowing transgender girls to compete on girls’ sports teams was deteriorating fairness in women’s sports.
“To have biological males competing against biological females nullifies the fair nature of competitive sports,” he wrote.
Policies restricting transgender participation in school sports have been adopted by high school athletics associations in at least 25 states, according to Transathlete, which tracks transgender inclusion in sports.
In 23 states, state law prohibits transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, although court orders are temporarily blocking the enforcement of laws passed in Arizona, Idaho, West Virginia and Utah.