The Hempfield School District in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, approved a policy this week to minimize how transgender athletes might participate in interscholastic athletics — a ruling that counters Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf's legislative veto involving transgender athletes throughout the state.
Through the passage of a 6-3 vote Tuesday, Hempfield school board members can now require sports teams to comprise only athletes based on their assigned sex at birth.
The previous policy had permitted athletes to compete on teams that matched their stated gender identity.
The updated policy, which goes into effect immediately, reads: "Separate athletic teams on the basis of sex preserve fairness, provide increased opportunity for girls, and are safer. As such, the district provides separate interscholastic athletic teams on the basis of sex."
In addition, the updated policy dictates that teams will not be segregated based on "irrelevant classifications," including gender identity.
Two policy exceptions were noted. Schools within the district must provide "reasonable accommodations" for girls to participate on boys' sports teams, in cases where "there is no female team for that sport during the school year."
Hempfield schools will accommodate boys wishing to play on girls' teams, when there are no viable alternatives. A doctor's note certifying the student has yet to reach male puberty must be provided to the school's athletic director.
The Hempfield ruling takes into account the preservation of fairness in girls' sports.
Nearly 30 states have recently introduced measures that bar transgender student athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, according to Freedom for All Americans, which tracks such legislation.
On Tuesday, Hempfield school board member Jim Maurer said the new ruling would make the district vulnerable to legal challenges that could jeopardize its federal funding through Title IX, which prevents sex-based discrimination.
"We're at risk for further lawsuits in the future which would take away dollars that should be available for our students for educational needs," Maurer told Lancaster Online.
Earlier this week, Wolf vetoed the Protect Women's Sports Act, claiming the measure was "discriminatory" and would violate federal law and constitutional guarantees of equal protection, if enacted.
"I have been crystal clear during my time in office that hate has no place in Pennsylvania, especially discrimination against already marginalized youth representing less than half of 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s population," Wolf said in a statement.
"The fact that this bill passed through Pennsylvania's Republican-led General Assembly solely to bully and oppress vulnerable children is atrocious. These members should be ashamed of themselves for proposing and voting on policies that are discriminatory, unnecessary, and incredibly harmful."
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