Nebraska activities board punts on transgender policy


By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — After being christened “one of the best states to be a transgender high school athlete” by Deadspin last year, a Nebraska school activities board has backed away from the very policy that earned it that designation.

360: After being christened one of the best places to be a transgender high school athlete, Nebraska has backed away from a policy that would have protected the rights of transgendered students and athletes.

Last year, the executive director of the Nebraska School Activities Association, Rhonda Blanford-Green, told multiple national media outlets in December 2012 the NSAA board of directors passed a policy protecting the rights of transgender students. But after Nebraska Watchdog wrote about it, NSAA officials disputed Blanford-Green, saying the policy was discussed but not approved.

In August, rather than vote on the proposed policy, the board decided to punt the issue to its six districts.

The chairman of the board, Alan Garey, said the issue could have been raised at either the November of January meetings of the association, but none of the member schools asked to do so.

“I don’t think the issue is over, but at this point in time nobody with the membership chose to bring it forward,” he said in an interview. “So we will wait to see where it goes. I don’t think the issue goes away.”

The policy would have to be supported by all six districts for it to go forward, he said.

Blanford-Green’s proposal would have recognized transgender students’ right to participate in interscholastic activities without discrimination, and certain criteria would determine whether they could participate in sports and activities for the gender with which they identify.

Once again, she seemed to have a different take on the situation, telling Nebraska Watchdog, “All policies will be created on the local level so there will be no oversight or one entity to manage how they will be implemented. The NSAA will not provide leadership in this area as all decisions of eligibility will handled by school officials.”

Asked about Garey’s comment that the policy would have to be proposed by a member school, she said, “Unfortunately for all or fortunately for those who thought to make this about support rather than a focus on a consistent, equitable policy or recommendations to ensure fairness for all participants, district policies will be made and implemented on the local level.”

Catholic schools raised objections last year, saying they would have serious concerns about how a transgender policy would affect their “philosophies and moral teachings” and participation in activities. The conservative group Family First Nebraska said Christian and parochial schools could be faced with a dilemma of whether to participate in the NSAA or sign off on something that violates their religious tenets.

The Anti-Defamation League in Omaha, meanwhile, urged the NSAA board to adopt the policy.

Garey said it’s possible the issue could arise again down the road.

“Never say never but at this point in time, I would say it would have to come from the membership,” Garey said.

Contact Deena Winter at Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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