- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A measure that would have required transgender students to use the sex on their birth certificates to determine the sports team they played on was defeated by a South Dakota Senate committee Tuesday, but another bill on the issue is being considered later this week.

The Senate Education Committee voted 4-3 to dismiss the measure, which would have invalidated a South Dakota High School Activities Association policy on transgender student participation in sports.

The association’s policy was adopted in June. It directs schools to help transgender students or their guardians apply to the activities association with the correct documentation. An association committee would then make the determination.

Republican Rep. Jim Bolin of Canton, the House sponsor of the bill that was defeated by the Senate committee, said the association “made a significant error and overstepped its authority” when it adopted the policy.

“It’s not a small thing. It is a very, very big thing,” Bolin told the committee.

On Thursday, the same legislative panel is to consider a separate measure that seeks to void the policy.

Dale Bartscher, executive director of Family Heritage Alliance Action, pushed the committee to support Bolin’s measure and said that it’s unfair to allow young people whose sex at birth was male to play on girls sports teams. He acknowledged the emotions surrounding the issue, but said the association’s policy should be “voided and avoided.”

Lindsey Riter-Rapp, a lobbyist for the organization, told the committee that the association hasn’t fielded any requests from transgender students yet. She said the policy was meant to be a proactive move since the issue has been raised in other states, and that it was thoughtfully considered before being approved.

Those opposed to voiding the policy argued that transgender athletes shouldn’t face discrimination or intolerance. Huron District Superintendent of Schools Terry Nebelsick, who was testifying as a private citizen, said children should be made to feel valued and shouldn’t be stopped from participating in school athletics.

“We must not select a group of children to discriminate against,” Nebelsick said. “A student is a child of God and needs (the) unconditional love and protection of the adults that are in their lives.”

Andrea Kosters, a transgender student from Emery, South Dakota, who identifies as a girl, testified against the measure during a House committee hearing in February.

Kosters, 18, said Tuesday that she’s pleased the Senate panel shot down the plan because it’s unfair.

“People need to meet someone like me and actually talk to me for a little bit to understand who I am,” said Kosters, who added that she hopes “that we have that freedom to be who we want.”

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