A bill that eliminates an activities policy on transgender students is halfway through the Statehouse. House Bill 1112 voids the transgender policy the South Dakota High School Activities Association has in place. Lawmakers in Pierre amended the measure during debate.
Several South Dakota lawmakers say they understand school leaders want a consistent, clear policy for transgender students, but legislators disagree about who should institute the guidelines and what they should include.
State Representative Roger Hunt says lawmakers should control certain policies that affect students across the state. He’s the prime sponsor of House Bill 1112. Hunt says the amended bill requires lawmakers approve a transgender policy through a legislative resolution.
"The next thing that it does is that any transgender policy which has been adopted by the board of directors prior to this act is hereby declared void," Hunt says. "And then lastly the amendment would say that a student’s sex is determined by the student’s chromosomes and the sex recorded on the student’s official birth certificate."
Lawmakers who support the bill say a student can’t change his or her sex.
Last session the South Dakota Legislature considered a measure on transgender guidelines similar to House Bill 1112. It failed. Then in the summer a task force examined the South Dakota High School Activities Association, including its transgender policy.
Representative Tona Rozum served on the panel.
"This is not a situation where you can make a blanket policy," Rozum says. "I think we would do injustice to all of the schools if we negate the policy that’s on the books that’s been hashed over and over and over, and the only reason you’re getting it is because a few on the committee did not agree with what the committee’s results were after talking about this for many meetings."
Rozum says she agrees that transgender students are not capable of making the official declaration on their own. She says that’s why the policy requires parents, guardians, and medical professionals to agree that the individual is transgender.
Members of the House of Representatives support House Bill 1112 to void the activities association’s transgender policy and require legislative approval of future rules. A vote of 45 to 32 sends the bill to the State Senate.