A North Carolina school district voted last month to forfeit all girls volleyball games against a rival school after a transgender player on the rival team reportedly injured a player with a spike.
The Cherokee County Board of Education voted 5-1 for all schools in the country to forfeit matches against Highlands School, a K-12 school in Macon County, following a match in which a Hiwassee Dam High School player allegedly suffered head and neck injuries from the spike, reports Fox News.
According to Education First Alliance, a right-wing, anti-union group that seeks to change the educational system and frequently rails against “racial indoctrination” and LGBTQ visibility in schools, the injured player is still suffering from long-term concussion symptoms and has not been cleared to play.
The forfeiture policy against Highlands School will apply to both varsity- and junior varsity-level volleyball games.
According to notes from the school board meeting, David Payne, Hiwassee Dam’s athletic director, supported the board’s decision. He said that based on feedback from players and parents, there were mixed feelings about competing against Highlands in the future, but he felt a statement needed to be made that it’s unfair and unsafe to allow transgender girls to compete against cisgender girls due to the biological advantages the former group enjoys over the latter.
Board member Joe Wood defended the board’s vote, saying the decision was made based on concerns over player safety, not gender identity.
“I’ll never put a child in a position to be seriously injured,” Wood said, according to Education First Alliance. “I think the odds [of injury] in these non-contact sports aren’t high. But in particular, in this meeting, a coach of 40 years said they’d never seen a hit like this. That was really what sealed the decision, at least on my part.”
Despite comments from a volleyball coach noting that she’d, as a player and a coach, seen biological females hit a ball harder than the transgender athlete, Board Vice Chair Jeff Martin also defended the vote on safety grounds. He said that the board wasn’t actively seeking out such a controversy, but that concerns about competitive advantage have to be taken into account with any sports issue involving trans athletes.
Board member Jeff Tatham said the most convincing piece of evidence was video of the volleyball game that showed the spike, with the Hiwassee Dam player falling to the ground after being hit.
“The biggest thing for us, especially after seeing the video of the injury, we felt very strongly that it was a safety concern,” he said. “I think most of the board members also felt like there’s a competitive advantage issue.
The one board member who voted against automatically forfeiting matches against Highlands School, Keesha Curtis, said she believes school principals and individual athletic directors should be empowered to decide whether to forfeit games against Highlands.
With this incident, conservatives pushing for a statewide ban to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports have now found an example to point to when lobbying for such legislation next year. Eighteen other states have already instituted some sort of restriction on transgender athletes, either by expressly forbidding transgender females from competing in women’s sports or by requiring all transgender athletes to compete on sports teams based on their assigned sex at birth.
Congressman Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced a bill to bar transgender athletes from women’s sports at the national level in January 2021, but the bill has never received a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Proponents of such bans say they are necessary to preserve the intent of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in educational settings, and to ensure cisgender females are not placed at a competitive disadvantage when playing against transgender females. Opponents say that the number of transgender athletes is exceedingly rare, and that such bans single out those few who do compete for discrimination based on their gender identity.
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