PJ Media

No Strip Searches for Transgendered Student-Athletes in South Dakota

Rep. Roger Hunt (R) told PJ Media that despite what publications like the Huffington Post and the Advocate may have printed, he has no interest in forcing high school athletes to drop their shorts so that school officials can determine whether they are or are not the gender they claim to be.

Nor does he want to ostracize students who are determined to be transgendered. But Hunt wants to make sure there is a process for this and, to be sure above all else, that South Dakotan values are maintained.

Hunt is working on legislation that could be introduced in January 2016 to establish the criteria and process through which the transgendered status of high schools students could be determined.

There were several media reports in late August and early September that claimed Hunt was interested only in the genitalia of transgendered students.

He believes those publications obviously write to their political agendas.

“Of course they do,” Hunt said. “When you start talking about everybody being ‘inspected,’ then you start dealing with concerns of rights of privacy and so on and so forth. But that is not the type of legislation that we are talking about.”

“We are not talking about … everyone on the basketball team has to line up so we can check everybody out,” he added.

A student’s claim of being transgendered does raise a lot of other questions about things like which locker room and/or bathroom they should use, which schools across the nation are dealing with.

Hunt admits that is a problem for many school districts. But it is not something his legislation would cover.

Hunt’s legislation would establish a statewide standard for the criteria of dealing with students who claim their gender is different than what was assigned at birth. It would include an appeals process that would be conducted within local school districts.

Hunt said it should begin with a claim from a high school athlete that he or she is transgendered. If the student’s school system rejects that assertion, based on the criteria set up by his legislation, there would be an appeal process available to the student.

He also said the student should bear the burden of proof to support the claim of being transgendered.

“Most of us (legislators) think this is really about how we determine the accuracy of that evidence and the prerequisites on which that claim are made,” he said.

The legislation is in a summer study group of the South Dakota legislature. Its legislative year begins in January.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association — which governs high school athletics in the state — has been trying to deal with this question because of a legislative backlash to the SDHSAA’s 2014 policy that allowed transgendered students to decide which team — boy’s or girl’s — they would join.

Two other legislative proposals were introduced in the 2015 legislative session to set standards for transgendered athletes.

Both proposals died for lack of support in the South Dakota Senate after being approved by the House.

The SDHSAA finally decided at a meeting in late August to deal with students who claimed to be transgendered on a case-by-case basis.

An “independent hearing officer” would be appointed by the executive director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association to hear each case. Students or schools that disagree with the IHO’s final decision would have the opportunity to appeal to the SDHSAA board of directors.

That isn’t close to being good enough for Hunt. He said the process endorsed by the SDHSAA is no process at all, and leaves too many unanswered questions.

“We, of course, would like to see the parameters,” he said. “How does this thing get started? How is it resolved? How do the decisions get made and what is the criteria for making the decisions?”

For instance, where would birth certificates, which identify a student’s gender, fit into the process? Hunt worries that those “official government documents” will simply be ignored in favor of the student’s gender claim.

“That would open up a real can of worms, as well,” said Hunt. “We should be looking for factual information that can be used to substantiate that claim. A birth certificate is one. Appearance is another.”

Hunt also has a problem with the history of the SDHSAA process to decide transgender cases. As far as he is concerned, it has been based on the values of the “international transgendered community” not the South Dakotan community.

“That’s about as biased as you can get,” said Hunt.

“I can tell you after being in the legislature for 19 years that we recognize there are differences in values between what happens in South Dakota and what happens in California or New York.”