Utah parents complained that a high school athlete was transgender after hitting their daughters

The school and the Utah High School Activities Association evaluated the athlete without notifying her or her parents.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) David Spatafore, spokesman for the Utah High School Activities Association, speaks about how the organization complies with state law banning transgender girls from competing on high school girls’ teams during a meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday , August 17, 2022.

A school in Utah screened a high school athlete — and dug her records back to kindergarten — after she beat two other girls and then her parents questioned whether she was transgender.

School officials never told the winner and her family about the review of her student records “to keep matters private,” said David Spatafore, spokesman for the Utah High School Activities Association.

But it came after the parents of the second- and third-place finishers filed a complaint with the UHSAA, which oversees high school sports in the state. The girl won first place in a competition “by a wide margin” last year, Spatafore told transgender athletes at a lawmakers’ hearing on Wednesday.

The federation often receives complaints, including “when an athlete doesn’t look feminine enough,” he said, adding that he cares about each individual. In this case, the school conducted an initial review of the winning student’s high school record and found that she was registered as a female student.

Spatafore said UHSAA then directed the school to continue digging “to verify.” School officials called her middle school and elementary school to see her record, he noted.

“School went back to kindergarten,” Spatafore said, “and she was always a woman.”

“If someone has been a woman since kindergarten,” he added, it’s likely they haven’t changed gender.

Spatafore said he would not reveal the winner’s grade or sport to protect her identity. But he used the example to show lawmakers that the association has responded to and investigated complaints about transgender athletes and that it intends to comply with the new law that now prohibits them from playing on girls’ sports teams in Utah high schools to play.

But it raised questions about how far the association will go in looking at private student records – and not including family when concerns are raised.

Spatafore said the student and her family were not told because it could be offensive or embarrassing that someone thought the girl was transgender; he said she wasn’t told to protect her. Parents would have been involved “if necessary,” Spatafore said. But he felt the school was able to address concerns by looking at their records instead.

“If all eligibility questions were answered by the school or schools in the feeder system, there was no reason to make it a personal situation with a family or that athlete,” he added.

Lawmakers did not question the process.

The complaint came last year when UHSAA had a process for transgender athletes that required them to register as transgender and take hormone blockers for a year before they could compete on a team not assigned a gender at birth .

Many parents raised grievances, Spatafore said, blaming other students for being transgender and having an advantage. None turned out to be verified.

The state had a registered transgender athlete on a girls’ team last year, he said.

This year, transgender girls are banned from playing on girls’ teams in high school, after a law passed by the legislature took effect in July.

This is currently being challenged in court by three transgender girls who want to play with girls. When a judge issues an injunction, a commission comes into effect and decides which transgender girls can participate. Members are to rate a transgender player’s span, weight and height — and whether a girl is taking hormone blockers — to determine if she could have an unfair advantage, under lawmakers’ plan.

Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, who sponsored legislation banning transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams, said she wants UHSAA to enforce the law. She said she worked for two years to write the bill and was frustrated with every effort not to stick to it.

“Despite the fact that a judge could decide or someone could sue, that’s the law,” she said. Not following it “undermines our process of making processes and laws.”

https://www.sltrib.com/news/education/2022/08/18/utah-parents-complained-high/ Utah parents complained that a high school athlete was transgender after hitting their daughters

Justin Scacco

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