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Maine Principals' Association Issues New Policy on Transgender Athletes
03/29/2013   Reported By: Samantha Fields

Transgender high school students in Maine will now be able to play for sports teams that match their gender identity. The Maine Principals' Association yesterday gave final approval to the new policy.

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Until now, students in Maine could only participate on sports teams according to their biological gender. There were certain exceptions that allowed girls to try out for boys' teams when there was not an equivalent girls' team. But Dick Durost, of the Maine Principals' Association, says that if a transgender athlete who identified as male wanted to swim or play basketball, his only option was to play for a girls' team.

"Within the last year or so I've had a couple requests from transgender students to consider looking at present policy to see whether we might be able to address some of their needs and concerns," Durost says.

Durost found that there are only a handful of states that have policies designed to accommodate transgender student-athletes. Those include Vermont, Colorado and Washington state. Durost says the Maine Principals' Association drew on those states' guidelines and experiences in putting together its Transgender Participation Policy, which was approved overwhelmingly by schools that are members of the MPA.

"There was one vote opposed to the policy, so that's the kind of support that it had," he says.

Under the new policy, transgender students will have to submit a request to the school, along with documentation that their gender identity differs from the biological sex they were assigned at birth. The school will then request a confidential hearing before an MPA Gender Identity Equity Committee.

"The request will be granted unless the committee determines that it's not a bona fide or legitimate request, or if there is the danger of an undue athletic competitive advantage, or the risk of harm or injury to others," Durost says.

Durost cites the example of a student athlete who's 6-feet 2-inches tall, and 250 pounds, born male but who identifies as female, joining a girls' softball or field hockey team. That, he says, could potentially present an unfair or unsafe situation for the other athletes on the team, or on competing teams.

But Durost says he thinks such a case would be rare. And Melanie Craig, the athletic director at Deering High School in Portland, agrees. She is highly supportive of the new policy, and says the point is to create fairness.

"It's nice to see the MPA be proactive," she says. "This is a policy that - it was time. There's been some national cases. And it's nice that we're being proactive to make sure that we're taking care of all of our student athletes."

Craig says she doesn't know of any students at Deering who will make use of the policy. The MPA'S Dick Durost says there are at least one or two transgender students at almost every high school in the state. But he says he doesn't expect the association to be overrun with requests.

"It's simply there as an option to be available for a student who is transgender, has an interest in athletics, and desires to access this policy," he says.

The Transgender Participation Policy goes into effect immediately. It applies to the more than 150 public and private schools that are members of the Maine Principals' Association.




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