Another Bill Targets South Dakota's Transgender Policy

Paul Steinbach Headshot

A bill introduced Monday in the South Dakota Legislature would void the South Dakota High School Activities Association's policy that allows transgender students to participate on sports teams that reflect their gender identities rather than the biological sex listed on their birth certificate.

According to the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, a student's sex on their birth certificate would be the "sole determinant" of which sports teams the student may participate if the bill introduced by Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, and Rep. Brunner, R-Nisland, were to become law. The current SDHSAA policy has been in place since 2015, and Bolin took issue with it then as he is now.

The former athletic director in Canton said "fair competition" is the reason he introduced the latest legislation, which he hopes brings "the policy of Texas to South Dakota." Texas' University Interscholastic League requires that students participate on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

"I believe the activities association is a very good group, but I think they made a bad decision when they implemented this policy four, five years ago," Bolin said. "We have sports that are set up — boys go over 39-inch hurdles in 110 meters and girls have to clear 33-inch hurdles in 100-meter hurdles. We have a smaller ball for girls basketball than we do for boys basketball. If we're going to have these modifications, then my point is that the birth certificate should be the determining factor in which team you play on. It's all about fair competition."

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is opposing the bill, stating that it's an attempt to "codify discrimination" against transgender children and undermines the SDHSAA's authority to ensure "equitable and fair participation in high school activities.

"Barring transgender students from the benefits of athletics holds them back from living authentic and fulfilling lives," Libby Skarin, policy director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement. "Participation in athletic activities has a widespread impact on the social, physical and emotional well-being of students and provides kids with lessons about self-discipline, teamwork, perseverance, success and failure. They bring excitement, joy and a sense of belonging — a sense that is important for all kids, but particularly for kids who may already feel like outcasts."

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