VHSL establishes policy on transgender athletes

Hoping to be proactive regarding a situation it expects to arise one day, the Virginia High School League joined the growing list of governing bodies to establish a policy on transgender athletes.

Approved unanimously by the VHSL's Executive Committee, the rule requires an athlete to compete "in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment."

Mike McCall, information and communications specialist with the VHSL, said no school has ever filed an appeal on behalf of a transgender student. But as more states establish guidelines, the league wanted to act now.

"We don't want to be reactionary," McCall said. "We want to put a policy in place effective now and get ahead of the issue."

Area athletic directors contacted said they had just heard about the executive committee's vote and knew little about it.

"I've never encountered this issue or even heard a whisper of it coming up at another (Bay Rivers) school," Lafayette AD Dan Barner said.

"This is the first I've heard of it coming up," Hampton AD Mike Tribus said. "But we have to cover all bases and keep up."

McCall said that while no school has filed an appeal, four have inquired about the league's policy.

"They were what-ifs, they weren't anybody who wanted to start the appeals process," he said. "It was simply schools asking because this certainly will be on our doorstep. They were asking based on seeing the landscape."

Several states have established policies on transgender athletes. California's, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last summer, allows transgender athletes to choose whether they want to play boys or girls sports based only on their sexual identity.

Marty O'Brien contributed to this report.

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