The Alaska State Board of Education on Thursday voted to support a ban on transgender athletes playing on girls’ high school teams. The issue will now go to the state attorney general to determine whether it should go into effect.
During a special session on Thursday, the board convened and passed a regulation with a 7–1 vote. The regulation states, “If a separate high school athletics team is established for female students, participation shall be limited to females who were assigned female at birth.”
Felix Myers, the student representative from high school, was the sole dissenting vote among the board members. Additionally, the military adviser on the board chose to abstain from voting.
In July, the board initially addressed the issue, but voting was postponed following over 2 1/2 hours of testimony and the receipt of approximately 1,400 pages of written feedback.
The board did not entertain any public comments during the most recent meeting.
“I will be voting for the regulation amendment because I am part of the group which prioritizes competitive fairness and safety for high school girl athletes,” she said.
The agenda indicated that the state government administration did not provide any advice on whether the proposal should be approved or not.
Board member Bob Griffin stated that he held no personal objections to the manner in which individuals choose to express their gender identity.
“But the issue at hand is not gender identity, it’s performance differences between biological males and biological females and the competitive fairness that that implies,” Mr. Griffin said.
Mr. Griffin emphasized that biological males possess a considerable competitive edge over biological females in the majority of competitive sports.
“If this were not true, we wouldn’t need Title IX or separate sport divisions for boys and girls and roughly half the members of high school football teams would be girls,” he added.
Mr. Griffin pointed to Alaskan Olympian Lydia Jacoby who won a gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games in 2021, noting that her gold-winning best time was four seconds slower than “the Alaska state high school record for boys.”
While noting that most Alaskans are proud of Ms. Jacoby, he added, “We clearly have a duty to promote the principles of fairness and equity for biological women and girls.”
Alaska’s Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who appointed the board members, supports the regulation. He has emphasized that the regulation is essential to maintain fairness in girls’ sports.
Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor, a Republican, will be responsible for deciding whether the regulation should be implemented.
Around 22 states have enacted legislation that prohibits transgender athletes from participating on girls’ teams in K-12 schools. Some of these laws also extend to preventing transgender individuals from joining boys’ teams, and a subset also extends the prohibition to college-level athletics.
The Anchorage School District, which is the largest school district in the state, released a statement expressing strong criticism of the decision made by the board.
“With all of the current challenges facing Alaska’s public schools, it’s quite perplexing that this topic is a top priority for the Alaska State Board of Education,” said Anchorage School Board President Margo Bellamy and Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt.
During the meeting on Thursday, Bill Strickland from the Alaska School Activities Association Inc. said the association’s intention is to establish two teams: one accessible to biological girls, and another that is open to all students. In the event of any uncertainty, the association would refer to birth certificates to verify biological sex.