PARIS — School Administrative Director Natalie Andrews of West Paris asked board members, Monday night, their thoughts on on proposed legislation to ban athletes born male but identify as female from participating in girls’ high school sports.

Andrews is the Oxford Hills School District’s representative to the Maine School Board Association.

Last month, Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, introduced LD 926, which would allow “only a student of  the female gender join or participate in an interscholastic or intramural athletic team or sports activity that is sponsored by an elementary or secondary school or post-secondary institution and is designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls.'”

The bill is co-sponsored by eight other Republican legislators.

Under the legislation, “a student prohibited from joining or participating in an interscholastic or intramural athletic team or sports activity due to the determination that the student is not female, the student may dispute the determination to the commissioner with a signed statement by a physician that the student is female based upon: A. The student’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; B. The student’s naturally occurring level of testosterone; and C. An analysis of the student’s chromosomes.”

According to Andrews, the association’s legislative committee is very divided on the wording of the bill and is holding back a vote on its position.

“I have taken a foothold in it,” Andrews said, “but I do not want to keep blinders on it if I feel I’m looking at benefits of all students, and that includes both biological male and female competitors.”

Directors Scott Buffington and Bob Jewell, both of Paris, and Lisa Dunham of Oxford spoke in favor of the legislation.

But Buffington and Troy Ripley, also representing Paris, both questioned whether exceptional female athletes might see their biology challenged and put in a position where they had to prove that they are actually female. Ripley also pointed out that it seemed illogical to ban males from female teams but not females from male teams.

Director Curtis Cole of Norway wanted clarification that the bill would follow the gender reported on an athlete’s birth certificate and make males ineligible to play on a female sports team, which Andrews confirmed.

Director Sarah Otterson of Paris said she strongly opposed the legislation, as did Directors Kristin Roy of Otisfield and Judy Green of Waterford.

“I am deeply opposed on many fronts,” Roy said. “There are a lot of genetic anomalies, children can be born with both sexes inwardly and outwardly. A runner from South Africa competing on the world stage was determined to have an extraordinary high, but naturally occurring amount of testosterone. She was born female, identified as female, but was disqualified from competing as a woman unless she took hormones to reduce her testosterone levels.

“We are talking about our students here,” she said. “Some females identify as male, some males who identify as female. We … as a board, a political body, are going to basically subject them to invasive exams of their genitalia, their body fluids and determine as to whether we feel they are female or male enough. This should not go through.”

“I am opposed,” Green said. “I think it is a reaction to modern day (events). Things are complicated but this is a bit hateful.

“If people really want to support female athletes they would oppose the fact that women professional athletes are paid far less than men across the board,” Green said. “If you want to support female athletes, provide them with a level playing field. As Kristin said, these are children. If one identifies differently or is going through medical procedures, do we want to add to this kid’s problems? I’m sorry, I think it should be opposed.”

Director Lew Williams of Hebron asked if it was a transgender item or about a stronger person on a team. He pointed out the legislation said nothing about girls on boys’ teams.

“I have a problem under just straight male and female,” Williams said. “Mixed teams can play well. As long as accommodations are kept separate, if we can’t have a male on a female team, we don’t want a female on a male. If it’s fair for a girl to play on a boys team, it’s fair for a boy to play on a girls team.”

Director William Rolfe of West Paris said he would oppose it as government overreach and that no student should be subjected to such biological inquiries.

“I think there are serious concerns when it comes to fairness and scholarships,” Rolfe said. “However, I don’t feel it’s the school district’s place to assess students’ chromosomes and genitalia and then make decisions of which teams they should be on. I would not personally want board involvement with that. If I had kids I would not want the school to assess my child’s genitalia before they went out for a team. That’s my two cents.”

“There is no purpose in this bill,” Ripley said. “To echo what Lew said, if you ban the boys from the girls, you ban the girls from the boys. It should be equal.”

“The sponsor has clarified that the purpose is to prevent biological males who identify as female from competing not in team sports but in individual sports against females,” Andrews said.

“I am opposed to the bill because there is no stated purpose,” Ripley said.

“I am 100%, very, very strongly opposed to biological males being on females sports,” Jewell said. “You’re either born one way or another way, that’s just how it is … I am going to stick with my opinion. You either have the right amount of X or of Y chromosomes. You might as well make all sports coed. Unfortunately, all you’re going to do is ruin the opportunity for the woman to compete, if there are enough people that are males that identify as females.

“As Judy said, these kids are confused enough. In fact, I don’t know that we want to promote transgenderism. If you check it out, the suicide rate of any group is the highest in the transgender grouping. If we’re here for the best of the students we wouldn’t be promoting a biological male from competing with a female. Especially at the high school level. You won’t see it in professional sports. Take any sport, especially in individual sports, there’s a huge difference between biological men and biological women. How many records are there where a woman’s time is faster, higher, longer than the males’?”

Andrews thanked the directors for their input.

“There was a lot of thoughtful perspective points,” she said. “I appreciate it, I definitely heard some points that I had not considered.”

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