Newspapers around the state are praising the Minnesota State High School League for passing a transgender-inclusive high school athletics policy, and criticizing Republican leaders for hinting that the Legislature may try to reverse the policy.

City College News, the student newspaper for MCTC, praised the policy:

The decision may go against feminists agendas (a separate arena for female athletes to gain exposure and play at the next level), but the new policy addresses a larger concern.
In a study done by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, of the 6,450 participants, 41 percent had attempted suicide. By never challenging established gender roles, we are only reinforcing bullying and genderism. To shun these athletes and force them to play on a team they don’t feel a sense of belonging to is taking away a new learning opportunity for students, staff, and teammates.

The Minnesota Daily wrote that the MSHSL “made the right call”:

The Minnesota State High School League overwhelmingly approved a policy last Thursday allowing transgender high school students to participate in team sports according to their gender preferences.
We are pleased to see that this policy received such a great amount of support.
Despite the debate that surrounded the measure in the days preceding the vote, the MSHSL clearly understands the need for a specific set of guidelines to help form an inclusive environment for everyone in high school.
We believe that it is important this vote is seen as a stepping stone to move this issue forward. However, rights and opportunities for transgender students are still far from equal, and it will take continued effort to achieve progress.
The MSHL policy is something that should not be controversial.

The Faribault Daily News called GOP criticisms of the policy “political grandstanding”:

It’s interesting that a leading member of the party of less government oversight now wants to control the Minnesota State High School League.
But it’s unnecessary, and smacks of political grandstanding.
Last week, the MSHSL enacted a policy that allows transgender athletes to participate in high school sports teams that align with their gender identity. The decision came after the draft policy was first considered in July, tabled in October and generated much public input and debate. It has been discussed by the league off and on for eight years. The MSHSL said it received more than 10,000 emails on the issue.
Minnesota is the 33rd state in the nation with such a policy.
Three days later, state Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) told a group of GOP activists that she is concerned about the MSHSL’s decision and its autonomy in general, according to a story from MPRNews.org.
Neither did the three other GOP lawmakers who told the MSHSL at its meeting that it is the Legislature, not the league, that should be handling this policy.
Oh, the irony.

The Rochester Post Bulletin took incoming House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin to task for her calls for oversight of the MSHSL:

Opposition is likely to continue as Rep. Joyce Peppin, the incoming House Majority Leader, told a group of GOP activists on Saturday that she believes the MSHSL needs legislative oversight.
“I think that if folks don’t like their decision, they ought to have an opportunity of some redress of grievances,” said Peppin, a Republican from Rogers.
While we take a moment to note the paradox of a small-government advocate calling for more legislative oversight, we offer a challenge to anyone else who disagrees with the MSHSL’s transgender guidelines. Stop asking whether their children should be competing side by side with transgender athletes. That decision, mandated by federal law, has been made.
If the guidelines leave parents uncomfortable, they should educate themselves on transgender issues. If they still can’t accept the policy, they should be asking themselves if it’s time to consider transferring their children out of the public school system.

The Belle Plaine Herald called the policy a “map for schools to follow”:

Without last week’s Minnesota State High School League decision on how to properly handle a transgender student’s request to participate in a girls’ sport, Belle Plaine School District Superintendent Kelly Smith and Activities Director Mindy Sparby wouldn’t have been certain what to do.
This week, they have a policy to follow.
“I’d be on the phone seeing what other districts would do,” he said. “South Dakota has a (transgender) policy. I’d probably check there.”

The St. Cloud Times wrote that the MSHSL has done an “exemplary job”:

This organization appears to have the support of Minnesota schools and has done an exemplary job of running the high school tournament for decades.
So what business does the Legislature have in butting into its business?
Some lawmakers may want to pick the issues for which they get involved. But what might determine the reasons for that involvement? Do lawmakers want to help decide if dance team is an activity or a sport? Do they want to help draw the boundaries for tournament play?
Do they want to try to set the start of fall sports practices for after Labor Day to benefit the state’s important tourism industry? Goodness, they’ve had that power for school-year starts and look how inconsistent that’s been in recent years.
The MSHSL gets no direct state funding. It is a voluntary association. If schools object to policy decisions, they can withdraw.
But school officials, who have to deal with all the details of running and scheduling events for student-athletes, know they are the best people to make the decisions. The MSHSL board spent a great deal of time and effort studying the transgender policy.
That’s the way it should be. The MSHSL and the state extracurricular high school activities shouldn’t become another political football.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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