Alaska education board urges state to keep trans athletes out of sports not aligned with birth sex

The Alaska State Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution Thursday urging the state to only allow biological girls to participate in girls’ sports – recommending a separate league for athletes who don’t identify with their birth sex.

The resolution, which was added to the board’s agenda at the last minute, advises the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to create the separate divisions. All eight members supported it while the student adviser abstained.

A copy of the resolution obtained by the Anchorage Daily News showed where board members recognized the “integrity of middle and high school girls’ sports should be preserved.”

“We’re making a statement of keeping girls’ sports safe and competitive and fair, that’s all,” board chair James Fields told the Daily News via The Associated Press.

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Billy Strickland, the director of the Alaska School Activities Association, said the resolution is similar to what has been proposed to him in previous discussions by members of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. 

Strickland said they wanted to create three divisions – boys, girls and a co-ed division that would allow transgender athletes – but he said Alaska doesn’t have enough transgender athletes to accommodate a third division. He also said he was only aware of one in the nine years he has led the ASAA.

A statement from Dunleavy’s office to The AP on Friday emphasized girls playing in single-sex leagues should be playing against other girls.

“If a person who was born a male but feels out of place playing a sport in a league with boys only due to their gender identity, the solution isn’t to allow them to compete against girls, but to increase co-ed opportunities,” the statement said. “It’s time to seriously consider co-ed interscholastic sports so that all students can compete at their highest level.”

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Strickland said school boards and districts set their own policies, and the Matanuska-Sasitna Borough School Board is the only group to limit the participation of trans athletes in Alaska at this time. Most others have not addressed the issue, though girls are allowed to play alongside boys on some football and hockey teams.

Senate Education Committee chair Sen. Löki Tobin, a Democrat from Anchorage, expressed concerns that the board violated its requirement to allow the public to weigh in on resolutions before a vote, The AP reported. 

She was also worried the resolution could violate the right-to-privacy clause of the state Constitution.

“I am concerned primarily because I am the chair of the state policy committee for education in the Senate,” said Tobin. “I am concerned that the process just was not followed, and that we weren’t able to provide our public comment on this issue.”

The AP added that the legislature has the ability to revoke proposed regulations for any state department.

Earlier in March, the governor proposed a bill requiring students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their biological sex. The bill would also require parental approval if students wanted to change their name or pronouns used in school. Lawmakers have not yet voted on this bill.

Another bill that would create a co-ed sports division separate from the boys’ and girls’ leagues also has not been heard.

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The Alaska state Senate has said it would steer clear of divisive issues this session, which includes any legislation related to LGBTQ+ people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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