Alaska education board asks state for transgender sports ban

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska board of education has unanimously approved a resolution that urges the state to limit the participation of transgender girls in girls school sports.

The resolution passed Thursday urges the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to create two sports divisions, one for athletes whose sex assigned at birth is female and the other for students of all genders, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The resolution was added last-minute to the board’s agenda at the end of a three-day meeting in Juneau. It had unanimous support from the eight members, with the student adviser abstaining.

Billy Strickland, the director of the Alaska School Activities Association, said the resolution closely matches what members of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration discussed with him previously. He said they wanted to create three divisions: boys, girls and one co-ed division that would allow transgender athletes.

Strickland said there aren’t enough transgender athletes in Alaska to accommodate a third division. In fact, he said he was only aware of one transgender athlete in the nine years he has led the association.

A statement emailed from Dunleavy’s office Friday said 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.”

Only the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School Board in Alaska has limited the participation of transgender athletes, Strickland said. School boards or districts set their policy, and most have not addressed the issue. Girls already frequently play alongside boys on some football or hockey teams.

A message seeking a copy of the resolution from the state board was not immediately returned Friday to The Associated Press. But a copy obtained by the Anchorage newspaper urged the activities association to protect “the integrity of high school girls’ sports.”

“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.

State Sen. Löki Tobin, an Anchorage Democrat who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said she was concerned the board violated its requirement to allow the public to weigh in on resolutions before a vote. She also expressed concerns the resolution could violate the right to privacy clause of the Alaska Constitution.

The Legislature can revoke proposed regulations for any state department.

“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.”

Dunleavy earlier this month proposed a bill that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their sex assigned at birth, the newspaper reported. It would also require parental approval for students to change their name or pronouns they use in school. The Legislature has not voted on the bill.

Another bill that would reserve sports divisions for boys and girls and create a separate co-education division also has not been heard.

The Alaska state Senate has a bipartisan majority and has said it would steer clear this session of divisive issues, including those pertaining to LGBTQ+ people.