- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s high school activities association on Wednesday finalized changes to its policy on transgender student participation in athletics, including who will decide on a student’s request to play on the team of their choice.

The reworked policy would have an independent hearing officer, rather than a committee, make that decision. It also drops references to familiarity with standards of care for transgender people from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health that would have been taken into consideration during the approval process.

Some lawmakers had expressed concern over the standards.

The changes leave the policy largely intact ahead of the 2016 legislative session, where it may face another challenge from Republican lawmakers who tried and failed to block it last session.

The policy aims to provide a way for transgender students to participate on the sports teams that reflect their gender identities rather than the sex listed on their birth certificates. So far, a transgender student hasn’t made a request to the association under the policy, association Executive Director Wayne Carney said.

Board member Sandy Klatt said she was concerned that the policy doesn’t allow transgender students to change their minds if they have an application approved and join a new team. The policy locks a student into participating on that gender’s team in all sports for the remainder of high school.

“I’m sorry, God doesn’t make mistakes. If a boy’s a boy, he’s a boy,” Klatt said. “I just feel like if he wants to say that he’s a girl for a couple of years, but he’s going to go back to being what he was born as being, you have to let him, because God made him to be a boy, and so he is a boy.”

She directed board staff to draft a policy that allows students to reconsider their requests.

Efforts to block the original policy established in 2014 stalled last session in the state Senate after easily passing the House.

A legislative panel last week shot down two measures that would have required transgender people to define their gender by the anatomy listed on their birth certificate.

Republican Rep. Jim Bolin, who authored a proposal to void the board’s policy last session and is one of the leaders of the study panel, said it’s “highly possible” that there will be more challenges to the policy in the upcoming session.

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