Despite threat of lawsuits, UIL doesn’t budge on exclusionary policy
The 32-member legislative council of the University Interscholastic League can’t say Rafael McDonnell didn’t try to educate the committee on Tuesday, June 14.
McDonnell, the communications and advocacy manager of Resource Center, spoke to the statewide body overseeing high school sports and other extracurricular activities about a rule barring transgender student athletes in sports set to go into effect in August.
McDonnell asked the committee to halt its implementation, which states gender is based on a student’s birth certificate, not gender identity. He also shared policies from Colorado, Florida and Minnesota, all of which have rules accommodating transgender athletes.
As the Dallas Voice and other outlets have reported, McDonnell said, “UIL did not consult outside resources; they simply codified their current practice.”
The rule was one of 11 ballot items sent to school district superintendents across Texas for consideration. It passed in a lopsided 586-32 vote.
“The reception from the legislative committee was polite. They all intently looked at it and some took notes,” McDonnell said. “But because it wasn’t on the agenda, they couldn’t take it up.”
The committee however declined to consider a different proposal — unaffiliated with McDonnell’s previous advocacy — allowing transgender athletes to play sports based on their gender identity.
His request to halt enforcement isn’t without precedent, however.
Last year, the Education Department ruled a Palatine, Ill., school district violated Title IX for refusing to allow a transgender girl on a girls’ sports team to use the girls’ locker room. If the district did not remedy the situation within 30 days, the Education Department warned, it would risk losing some or all of its Title IX funding.
Some of the legal battles are currently playing out in Texas. Most recently Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, on behalf of a Wichita Falls school district, challenged new guidelines for transgender students released by the Obama administration.
In Fort Worth, a group known as Stand for Fort Worth, is rallying against similar guidelines released by the school district for accommodating transgender students. In their literature, the group suggests the provisions threaten the parent-child relationship and force an “agenda” on their children.
They’ve been joined by a chorus of local legislators, including Republican state Sen. Konni Burton, and state Reps.
Matt Krause and Stephanie Klick, all of who represent parts of Fort Worth. Parents in Palatine recently formed a similar group known as “Students and Parents for Privacy” and filed a suit against the federal guidelines.
What the opponents have in rhetoric, they lack in historical precedent, however.
Earlier this month the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to re-hear a case brought by transgender Virginia student Gavin Grimm. The Gloucester County schools student successfully sued to overturn his school district’s policy segregating transgender students from their peers by requiring them to use separate restroom facilities.
The American Civil Liberties, representing Grimm, successfully argued the rule violates Title IX, federal non-discrimination laws and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
While the appeals court declined to re-hear the case, the Fourth Circuit halted the decision. The Gloucester County School Board plans to appeal its case to the Supreme Court.
McDonnell believes the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of transgender equality.
Until then, “UIL now has in its hands good policies,” McDonnell said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2016.