A recent poll shows about 80 percent of schools in the state support the current guidelines for transgender student athletes. Currently, students who want to participate in a sport as a gender other than that assigned at birth have to get permission through the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
The association sent a survey to all 179 affiliate schools for feedback. The questionnaire asked if the current policy for transgender students needed changing. One representative for each school was asked to answer, mostly superintendents. About 130 gave feedback.
Dan Swartos is the Executive Director for the activities association. He says the policy was implemented in 2013 and has been challenged several times.
“We wanted to see where our membership was at. If they supported it as is or if they wanted to make some changes to it.”
He says changes have been made to the policy over the years. Currently, transgender students are required to send information to the association before they’re eligible to participate in sports under their preferred gender.
That includes a transcript, a list of accommodations made for the student at the school, a note from a licensed healthcare professional like a doctor or psychiatrist and letters from themselves, their parents and other individuals who know them. Swartos says students are granted a waiver if they’re approved.
“It’s a waiver to state that this student identifies as a gender other than what’s specified on their birth certificate and that they live their life and that they live their lives consistent with that gender. That there’s verification that this is not just something that they’re doing off the cuff or that they’re doing it to gain a competitive advantage.”
Swartos say they’re able to appeal the decision. So far, less than ten students have applied.
“For us it’s way to support those kids and a way to give them opportunities to have the best high school experience possible. And not have to go to school during the day as one gender and then participate as another gender and then participate as another gender in after school activities.”
Swartos says the 80 percent approval for the policy might change if other schools send back the surveys.