The Alaska Department of Education and Early Childhood Development passed an anti-trans policy on August 31, 2023, which prevents trans girls from participating in school sports across the State of Alaska.
What the regulation does
The regulation states, "If a separate high school athletics team is established for female students, participation shall be limited to females who were assigned female at birth." The regulation applies to competitive or contact sports as determined by the Alaska School Athletic Association (ASAA). The current ASAA handbook lists contact sports as 'wrestling, ice hockey, football, basketball, and any other sport "the purpose or major activity of which involves bodily contact."'
The policy does not address how it would approach trans boys participating in sports.
Regulation Implementation and Enforcement – What to Expect
For this new DEED regulation to go into effect, the ASAA must update the policy in their bylaws. The regulation is not expected to go into effect until next school year.
Enforcement of the regulation will be up to schools. Some schools may preemptively adopt the regulation as guidance when making decisions about individual students before it goes into effect.
DEED has not provided any information on how schools should enforce this. For example, at its last meeting, during a discussion on using birth certificates to confirm gender, it was clear that DEED does not understand how amendments to birth certificates work or the legality of requiring birth certificates for school registration. Due to ambiguity and lack of guidance, we will likely see each district, or even individual schools, interpret and enforce the policy differently. Schools may also incorrectly apply it to activities not covered by the regulation.
It is possible, but not confirmed, that there could be a process for appealing a decision made by the school regarding an individual student.
ASAA will likely adopt the necessary bylaw change at its upcoming meeting, from Oct. 8-10 at the Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage.
How this Regulation Violates Student Rights
This policy violates the rights of Alaskans in multiple places.
- This regulation violates Equal Protection Clauses in the Alaska and US Constitutions. Public schools cannot single out LGBTQIA2S+ students for negative treatment. Public schools cannot take bullying less seriously because of a student's LGBTQIA2S+ identity.
- This regulation violates Title IX. Singling out and specifically targeting trans girls is sex discrimination and a violation of Title IX.
- This regulation violates Privacy Rights. Requiring birth certificates is potentially a violation of privacy rights. Physical examinations of students to determine sex assigned at birth violates privacy rights.
What can we do about it?
What else can we do?
Students and families can comment publicly at the ASAA meeting on October 8-10. To testify, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request to testify by Thursday, October 5. To provide public comment, you will need to call in. Dial 1-253-215-8782, enter the meeting ID: 854 0563 4005 #, then enter the passcode: 099491. Public comment begins at 9:15 am.
Teachers can signal allyship and support by advocating for and using LGBTQIA2S+ inclusive curriculum, displaying LGBTQIA2S+ posters, signs, stickers, etc., in the classroom, advocating to school administrators, asking them to provide statements of support for trans students and committing themselves to inclusivity. However, know that depending on your school or district’s policies, certain forms of advocacy could make you subject to disciplinary action. Teachers’ First Amendment rights are more restricted when at work. Speak to your school administrators about what is allowed in your district and what actions may result in disciplinary action before engaging in the types of support listed below.
Students, families, teachers, and supporters can attend the ACLU of Alaska's 'Know Your Rights' training on September 30th, 1-3 pm at Black Birch Books in Wasilla. The training will focus on students' rights to gender expression in schools.
We all can encourage leaders, organizations, governing bodies, and community members to speak out in opposition to the policy and voice their support for trans students.
The more people who demonstrate a commitment to inclusion, the more effectively we can create safety and support networks for students in and out of school.
Have more questions or concerns about this regulation and your rights? Contact Nithya Thiru, Queer and Trans Justice Program Manager for the ACLU of Alaska, at email@example.com.