The Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) decided not to take up a vote last week to adopt a bylaw change that would have limited girls’ sports and teams to biological females. Hundreds of Alaskans emailed, signed a petition, and called in to testify in support of protecting girls’ sports to preserve the original intent of Title IX, that girls and women have fair and safe opportunities and competitions in sports. Opposition turned out in large numbers by phone, however, with more individuals verbally speaking against the measure than for it during the public testimony.

Two members of the Anchorage Assembly, Chris Constant and Alex Rivera, wrote a letter to ASAA which included a warning of litigation and the threat of the Anchorage School District pulling out of ASAA altogether.

Allow me to state very clearly that I applaud all the men and women who have stood up to support and protect girls’ sports. Please know that I am by no means a male-basher but when two biological males, such as Constant and Rivera, threaten ASAA if it doesn’t allow biological males on girls’ teams and in their locker rooms, showers, and sleeping spaces when traveling — it does NOT sit well with me.

…this issue in the court, field, track, pool, etc. cannot help but spill over to locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms…

Males who are okay with discriminating against women? Males who are okay with robbing girls of their rights, their athletic opportunities, their dignity in private spaces? Excuse me, this is not okay.

And for those who disagree with me, I am not transphobic; I care for and value every student unconditionally. (One more quick note: trying to address mental health issues for a small group of youth through a policy that is unfair and unsafe for girls not only does not solve the depression and suicide issue for the small group, but it also exacerbates the already alarming upward trend of depression and suicide prevalent in the entire teenage female group.)

And because this issue in the court, field, track, pool, etc. cannot help but spill over to locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms, I have had women reach out to me in recent months, women who are survivors of sexual assault. They want a clear line in the sand. They do not want biological males in their private spaces. Just the fact that this is a present issue in our society – the mere fact alone – is creating anxiety and trauma for survivors. Imagine the increased level of anxiety and trauma they will experience when a man walks into their private space. The sooner we settle this issue, the better.

Unfortunately, it looks like it won’t be soon though as far as the ASAA board in concerned. Ultimately, the ASAA board decided not to take up the vote and punted the issue back to the Alaska State Board of Education to consider clarifying the governing regulations.

I’m quite certain ASAA’s reason was to strengthen the legal footing for the bylaw change. Currently the regulations grant authority to ASAA to administer their program economically, effectively, and fairly but do not, for instance, define anything specifically regarding “fairness” and what criteria might constitute fairness.

The Alaska State Board of Education’s next meeting is June 7-8, 2023, in Kenai. The agenda has not been released.

Click here to read my prepared testimony for last Monday to ASAA supporting the bylaw change.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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OPINION: What’s next in the ongoing battle to protect girls’ sports in Alaska

Shelley Hughes
Shelley Hughes serves as an Alaska state senator from Palmer.