March 22, 2023 12:28 am

In an unannounced move, the Alaska board of education unanimously passed a resolution Thursday afternoon that urges the state education division to limit the participation of transgender girls in girls college sports.

The resolution, which is non-binding, encourages the Alaska Division of Education and Early Improvement to adopt a policy that would ban transgender girls from competing alongside girls who are cisgender — which means their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth — in college sports. The resolution asks the education division to develop two sports divisions: 1 exclusively for students whose sex assigned at birth is female, and one more that would be open to all students of all genders.

The resolution was added unexpectedly to the agenda, on the tail finish of the Alaska board of education’s 3-day meeting in Juneau, which concluded Thursday.

Billy Strickland, director of the Alaska College Activities Association, mentioned the resolution closely mirrors a policy he discussed with members of the administration of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy final month. Strickland mentioned members of the governor’s administration approached him to go over banning transgender athletes from competing alongside cisgender athletes altogether, with the concept of building 3 divisions: 1 for girls, 1 for boys and 1 coed division that could accommodate transgender athletes.

Spokespeople for the governor’s workplace did not promptly respond to concerns on Dunleavy’s position on the challenge and irrespective of whether he intended to instruct the division of education to adopt the policy outlined in the board’s resolution.

Strickland mentioned there are not adequate transgender athletes to populate a third division. In his nine years directing the organization that oversees higher college sports in Alaska, he mentioned he has heard of only 1 transgender athlete. Rather, Strickland told the Dunleavy administration it would be doable to develop a division only for cisgender girls, and an “open” division that could accommodate all other students, which includes transgender students. Girls currently on a regular basis play alongside boys in Alaska on some football and hockey teams when equivalent teams for girls do not exist.

Below current regulations, it is up to person college boards and districts to adopt and implement policies pertaining to transgender athletes’ participation in college sports. Most districts do not have a policy at all, and only the Mat-Su college board has adopted guidelines limiting the participation of transgender athletes in teams that align with their gender identity, Strickland mentioned.

[Governor’s pick for Alaska education commissioner declines job]

The policy Strickland discussed in early February with members of the governor’s administration — whom Strickland declined to name — would demand transgender girls to play in the open division alongside boys, but as Strickland understood it, transgender boys whose sex assigned at birth is female could decide on among the two divisions.

That regulation closely mirrored the 1 proposed in the non-binding resolution that passed Thursday at four p.m., shortly prior to the board adjourned.

Members of the board and the division of education declined many requests for a copy of the resolution on Friday. Division spokesperson Laurel Shoop mentioned she could not give a copy of the resolution due to the fact it had but to be signed by board chair James Fields.

But according to a draft copy of the resolution obtained by the Each day News, the board urged the Alaska College Activities Association to adopt the two-division proposal to defend “the integrity of higher college girls’ sports.”

“The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Improvement supports the passage of regulations proposed by the Alaska Division of Education and Early Improvement and reviewed by the individuals of Alaska to prioritize competitive fairness and security on the playing field whilst enabling all students to participate in activities,” the resolution states.

The eight-member board passed the resolution unanimously. The board’s student adviser, Maggie Cothron, abstained.

“We’re producing a statement of maintaining girls’ sports secure and competitive and fair, that is all,” Fields mentioned in a short interview just after the vote Thursday.

The resolution was brought by board member Lorri Van Diest, who did not promptly respond to a list of concerns sent by e-mail Friday.

Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, mentioned Friday that the resolution had caught her “off guard” and that she had not discovered about it till just after it had passed. Tobin mentioned she was concerned that the board had violated its requirement to enable the public to weigh in on resolutions prior to they are adopted.

Tobin mentioned she was “very concerned” about the resolution possibly violating the proper to privacy enshrined in the Alaska Constitution.

“What I’ve been capable to see, this resolution could possibly violate these provisions,” mentioned Tobin. “When I consider of the handful of young individuals we’re speaking about, I get really worried and scared about their security. Even the optics of it creates a predicament that may possibly place some people’s lives in jeopardy.”

Tobin mentioned that her reading of the resolution indicates the regulations have currently been proposed by the education division. A spokesperson for the division did not respond to a query on irrespective of whether the regulations have currently been drafted.

[Bill introduced in Alaska House would ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals]

“I am concerned mostly due to the fact I am the chair of the state policy committee for education in the Senate,” mentioned Tobin. “I am concerned that the procedure just was not followed, and that we weren’t capable to give our public comment on this challenge.”

Tobin mentioned that the Legislature can “nullify” proposed regulations proposed by the education division or any other state division.

“We give the authority to our division to do that in regulation, but that does not imply they have carte blanche to enact a regulation package that the state Legislature does not think is in the intent and the directive of their energy,” Tobin mentioned.

The resolution from the Alaska education board — composed of men and women appointed or reappointed by Dunleavy — comes on the heels of a measure introduced by Dunleavy that would effect the rights of transgender students in Alaska. Earlier this month, he proposed a bill that would demand gender nonconforming students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their sex assigned at birth. That bill, which has not but been voted on by members of the Legislature, would also demand parental approval for students searching for to alter the name or pronouns they use in schools.

Inquiries on the participation of transgender athletes in sports have come up on a regular basis in state legislatures, which includes Alaska’s, but Strickland mentioned he is not familiar with other states that have resolved the challenge by building just two sports divisions.

“We could grow to be the cutting edge of how this is becoming handled,” he mentioned.

A bill that would limit the participation of transgender little ones in college sports failed to pass the Senate final year, just after it was proposed by Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer. Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, proposed a related bill earlier this year that would enable transgender athletes to participate in a separate co-educational division, with other divisions reserved for boys and girls according to their sex assigned at birth. That bill has but to be scheduled for a hearing.

Members of the bipartisan Alaska Senate majority this year vowed to remain clear of divisive difficulties, which includes bills pertaining to the rights of LGBTQ individuals.

Samuels reported from Anchorage and Maguire reported from Juneau.

• • •