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Georgia High School Association Blocks Transgender Athletes

On Wednesday, the public school association changed its bylaws to require school athletes to compete in sports teams associated with the sex listed on their birth certificate. The measure passed in a 62-0 vote.

(TNS) — The Georgia High School Association unanimously changed its bylaws Wednesday, May 4, to block transgender athletes from competing in sports under the gender with which they identify.

Going forward, athletes will be required to compete under the sex listed on their birth certificate. The GHSA had previously allowed individual member schools to make the determination.

The measure passed the association's executive committee 62-0, per a copy of the meeting's minutes.

The GHSA was recently empowered to make the policy change by the General Assembly, after a Senate bill seeking an outright ban failed to clear the House. Republican lawmakers instead came up with a last-minute plan to kick the decision over the GHSA, tacking the measure onto a bill banning the teaching of "divisive concepts" in schools.

The new policy applies to all member public schools of the GHSA, and schools that fail to comply risk losing their state education funding.

Marietta City Schools and the Cobb County School District did not immediately return requests for comment Wednesday regarding how they would move forward with the policy. Reaction among Cobb school board members was split along partisan lines.

"I support that, and I support Title IX, and I support the lady women athletes being able to compete fairly among their peers," said Cobb school board member Randy Scamihorn, a Republican. "...How controversial should it be? I mean, people are who they are, but there's rules for everything throughout our society. Hopefully people are looking at all that and making fair decisions."

Cobb school board Chairman David Chastain, also a Republican, said he expected the district would comply with the policy, though the board hasn't yet discussed the issue.

"Speaking personally," Chastain added, "I have qualms about people identifying as one gender, when they were born as another, that gives them an advantage in an athletic sport ... that is going to be one of the risks, or let's call it one of the costs, of choosing to be transgender.

"It's just like other decisions we make in life. We make certain choices that may exclude us from opportunities in the future. For example, you commit three felonies, there are certain employers that ... aren't going to hire you because of a felony. That was a personal choice."

Cobb school board member Leroy "Tre" Hutchins, a Democrat, said, "I like for children to be free to be themselves in whatever capacity that looks like. So I'm not into banning anybody from education or participating in anything."

Hutchins added, "We're still waiting on children to read on grade level ... (The GHSA's) voice has not represented my voice in a long time anyway, so it doesn't surprise me. That organization's welcome to voice their opinion on things, but again, it doesn't necessarily represent the voice of board members across the state of Georgia."

Chastain, Scamihorn, and Hutchins did not know of any instance in which transgender athletes have competed in Cobb County School District sports.

"I know that the Cobb County School District has always been accommodating to transgender students within our schools," Chastain added.

Like Chastain and Scamihorn, Jaillene Hunter, who serves on the nonpartisan Marietta Board of Education, applauded the decision.

"All student athletes should have an equal opportunity in sports, and there are clearly competitive imbalances between biological males and biological females. I applaud GHSA's decision to ensure a level playing field for our female athletes," Hunter told the MDJ.

Georgia Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, called the measure "discriminatory and divisive" in a news release.

"Quite frankly, the secretive and hasty process by which this was done is despicable. All Georgia students should have equal access to school sports, and efforts to change policies that facilitate that should be done in a transparent and open way. Today's actions of the GHSA Executive Committee will do real harm to trans kids in Georgia that just want to be themselves and fit in," said executive director Jeff Graham.

In a statement circulated by Human Rights Campaign, Jen Slipakoff, a Georgia resident, parent of a transgender student and past candidate for state representative, said "this decision is absolutely devastating to families like mine."

She added, "The cruelty that goes into going after the most vulnerable children is truly astounding. The painful consequences are going to be detrimental to every trans child's mental health, and they will be negatively impacted for years to come, if not for the rest of their lives. Shame on the GHSA for prioritizing politics over children."

Republicans, meanwhile, praised the GHSA's decision. Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill into law last week, said on Twitter he was "proud to have championed this effort in Georgia."

The lawmaker responsible for the measure, Senate President Pro Tem State Sen. Butch Miller, R- Gainesville, appeared prepared for the decision. Miller, a candidate for lieutenant governor, released a TV ad Tuesday saying the law would protect girls from unfair competition in sports.

(c)2022 Marietta Daily Journal, Ga. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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