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MSHSL approves transgender policy for student-athletes

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It was a packed house for the Minnesota State High School League meeting Thursday morning as the board voted to approve a controversial transgender policy for student-athletes, which will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year.

The policy, which was revised at a meeting Wednesday and discussed in depth before Thursday's vote, will allow student-athletes to play for the team that matches the gender they identify with if the student's appeal to the MSHSL is approved by an independent hearing officer, which would then be verified by the MSHSL at the next scheduled board meeting.

The policy also says religious-affiliated, non-public schools are exempt from this policy.

Hundreds of people attended Thursday's meeting, holding signs and wearing t-shirts. Before the vote, dozens of people, including transgender students, representatives of advocacy groups that are for and against the policy, and members of the Minnesota Legislature, addressed the board.

Supporters say the policy is necessary for student-athletes who identify as transgender to feel safe, while opponents have said it is unfair to others and puts them at risk.

Although many were happy with the outcome, others were not as supportive.

Initial discussions

The transgender policy had not drawn much public attention until a full-page ad paid for by Mankato-based Child Protection League showed up in the Star Tribune earlier this fall. Since the debate became public, the MSHSL has heard testimony from dozens of people and received thousands of emails regarding the policy.

The MSHSL was scheduled to vote on the policy in October, but it decided to hold off until its December meeting so board members could have more time to study the policy to make sure they get it right.

The Child Protection League published another full-page ad in the Star Tribune Sunday.

This policy is a first for Minnesota, but 32 other states and the NCAA all have some type of policy or procedure for determining transgender students’ eligibility to participate in sports.

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