- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s education superintendent made a surprise appearance at a hearing Wednesday to ask House members not to pass a bill that would prevent transgender students from playing on girls sports teams in middle and high school.

Just minutes after Education Superintendent Molly Spearman spoke, a House subcommittee voted 3-1 in favor of the proposal. The bill goes on to the full House Judiciary Committee.

Spearman said her responsibility is to make sure every child feels protected and she believes “this bill does damage to that.”

“I love sports. I know how important athletics is to what we are trying to do in our public schools,” said Spearman, who earlier in the day watched her hometown Saluda High School girls win the state title.

The superintendent said she supports the South Carolina High School League’s policy to consider any issue individually. The organization has no ban in place and there is no need for the General Assembly to step in, she said.

“It is a very sensitive personal situation,” said Spearman, who is a Republican elected by the voters.

If passed, the proposal would require all athletes in South Carolina would have to play on teams based on the biological sex listed on their birth certificates. More than a dozen other states are considering similar bills. Idaho passed a proposal, which is held up in the courts.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ashley Trantham said there have been no complaints of transgender students playing on girls teams yet, but her intention was to prevent it from happening before it could become a problem.

The proposals in South Carolina and other states come as a growing number of state high school athletic associations in the U.S. have enabled transgender athletes to play on teams based on their gender identity, and the NCAA has trans-inclusive guidelines for all its member schools.

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