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Transgender students are being identified within the Montana school system that may express interest in participating in sports, therefore, The Montana High School Association [MSHA] is proposing to amend their student athlete policy to allow transgender students to participate in high school sports regardless of their gender identity or expression. Minnesota State High School League [MSHSL] passed their transgender athletic policy in December of 2014 after considerable push back from the Child Protection League Action PAC.

Transathlete.com, a resource for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators to find information about trans-inclusion in athletics at various levels of play, lists 28 states that currently have a policy in place allowing transgender students to play; Montana would become the 29th state.

The MHSA policy proposes that all students, regardless of gender identity or expression, the opportunity to participate in a safe, competitive environment free of discrimination. The MHSA Executive Board shall designate criteria under which transgender student athletes may request to participate in an activity sanctioned for a specific gender that differs from the student’s sex assignment at birth.

Mark Beckman, MHSA executive director, told the Billings Gazette that the districts have never been notified of disputes concerning transgender students, but he calls it, “a proactive measure that would establish consistent procedures to protect both students and schools when requests do come in.”

MSHA public policy director Niki Zupanic says, “School sports are an important part of their students’ educational experience,” he continues. “It’s really important to make sure that experience is available to all students, regardless of gender.”

The policy would apply to 179 public and participating schools in the Montana school districts.

The Montana Family Foundation, an organization closely associated with known hate groups Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family oppose the policy.

In a podcast released last week by the Foundation’s president, Jeff Laszloffy, it starts “Will your high school be forced to put boys and girls together in a hotel room overnight? What about sharing a locker room? And what about putting a 6-foot-5, 220-pound guy on the girls’ basketball team? They may have to if the Montana High School Association gets its way.”

As in Minnesota, the policy does not specifically allow for shared shower facilities, locker rooms or hotel room and a member school may apply for gender identity eligibility for any student who meets all other eligibility requirements. This policy will also bring Montana in alignment with recent changes to Title IX.

In May 1982 the MHSA was named in a federal lawsuit alleging numerous violations of Title IX. One of the results of that litigation is the Ridgeway Settlement Agreement, which has become the minimum standard for defining gender equity in Montana’s high school athletic programs. Since that initial litigation, Montana has become one of the national leaders in promoting equity in athletics.

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