A measure introduced in the Legislature Monday would reverse a Minnesota State High School League Policy opening up girls’ sports to transgender student-athletes.
The “Student Safety and Physical Privacy Act” explicitly states that biologically male students may not participate in girls’ sports teams or use girls’ restrooms, showers, locker rooms and changing rooms. The Republican-sponsored measure has five Senate sponsors and 17 House sponsors.
The bill’s sponsors say it’s an issue not only of athlete safety and privacy, but of competitive fairness in girls’ sports.
“When I was in high school, women’s athletics were just getting started and we have since made tremendous strides. This is something that could potentially be harmful to that, and there is, of course, the privacy issue,” said co-author Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville. “I think all parents in our state would make sure that their children are comfortable and protected in intimate settings, which athletic fields and facilities and locker rooms are. We’re clarifying something I believe a vast majority of Minnesotans would support.”
The Legislation was created in the wake of a vote by the MSHSL board to allow students who were born male but identify as female to be eligible for girls’ teams at the nearly 500 schools in the league’s membership. State law already permits girls to compete in boys’ sports.
The debate was punctuated by emotional testimony and thousands of e-mails. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said he authored the House bill in response to community feedback.
“I do as a matter of fact think it’s the responsibility of the Legislature to determine these things,” Miller said. “We fund public education here in the state of Minnesota and I believe that because of that, we have a responsibility for the safety and physical privacy of students that attend our schools.”
MSHSL Executive Director David Stead declined to comment on the legislation.
Miller said it’s important that the bill gets a hearing this session, before the policy is implemented at the start of the 2015-16 school year. However, that may be difficult as committee deadlines loom. Sen. Chuck Wiger, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said it’s unlikely they will have time to hear the bill. Miller said there are talks with House Education Innovation Policy Chair Rep. Sondra Erickson to hear the bill.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, was the lead Senate author on an anti-bullying bill passed last session that tightened the state’s bullying laws and extended protections to transgender students, among others. Dibble said he plans to stand up against this session’s legislation, regardless of whether or not it gains traction.
“I’m not concerned whether it will move and pass because I don’t think it’s going to, but what concerns me is you’ve got a bill like this introduced by officials with the state of Minnesota, responsible adults, and it sends a highly negative message,” he said. “It fans the flames of hysteria and gives young transgender people and their families a negative message of who they are. That’s a really big problem.”