A policy approved in December by the Nebraska School Activities Association opens the door for participation in high school athletics by transgender students.
The policy, which was approved with no fanfare, requires students who want to participate in a sport with members of the gender opposite from their biological gender to prove their gender identity through the testimony of experts such as hormonal experts and psychologists.
No students have exercised the policy, nor does NSAA Executive Director Rhonda Blanford-Green expect any will soon. But the association wanted to prepare itself for when the issue arises, she said.
“The transgender policy in no way advocates for any type of education,” she said. “It is a blueprint for identifying and making sure we are not making arbitrary decisions.”
Blanford-Green said she proposed the policy to the NSAA board in November because she wanted to establish an equity policy for transgender students before her appearance at a national conference on transgender student participation in sports. The former University of Nebraska All-American in track and field and two-time U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier took the helm at the NSAA in July 2012.
Prior to returning to Nebraska, Blanford-Green served as associate commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association, which she helped lead to become one of the first two state athletic associations in the country to adopt policies establishing the rights of transgender student-athletes to switch teams.
Today, more than half a dozen states, including Nebraska, have policies in place to allow transgender students to choose whether to play sports with males or females, according to the New York Times.
Nationally, issues surrounding transgender students are drawing new interest.
The California Assembly voted May 9 to allow them to take part in sports and use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their biological gender. In Colorado, a 6-year-old born as a boy who identifies as a girl drew national attention recently after an elementary school refused to allow her to use the girl’s bathroom.
The NSAA approved its policy in December with no intention of wading into political debate, Blanford-Green said. Rather, the association wanted to preempt potential litigation that might result from a transgender student’s attempt to participate in high school sports in Nebraska, she said.
The association’s board plans to vote next month to finalize the policy and add it to its December minutes, she said.
The policy sets forth a process by which transgender students and their parents can ask to join teams made up of students from the opposite biological gender.
A student and his or her parent or guardian must first make such a request to the student’s school. The NSAA only gets involved if the school denies the request and either the student and his or her parent or guardian or another NSAA member school appeals the denial.
The policy allows schools to call on the student, his or her parents or guardians, friends, teachers or health care professionals to submit statements affirming the student’s “consistent gender identification and expression.” The policy allows the NSAA, should it become involved in an appeal, to also call on health experts and others to establish the student’s gender identity.
“These are experts in their field,” Blanford-Green said. “It’s not based on emotion or morality.”
She said she rejects the idea the NSAA policy could influence students to become transgender.
“A policy doesn’t create transgender students,” she said. “The student is what the student is.”
Iowa is considering adopting a similar policy, she said.
“When you don’t have a policy, decisions are made based on emotions, and that’s when the issues escalate.”