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Hempfield School District passes controversial transgender athlete policy

The Lancaster County School District is the first in Pennsylvania to pass a policy of this kind.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — On Tuesday night, the Hempfield School District voted to pass Policy 123.1, which requires student-athletes to play on sports teams matching their biological sex.

Ollie Wenditz is a transgender student interested in playing sports. He says the policy strips him of his rights.

“If I were to try out for the basketball team, I would not at all want to be on the girls’ team,” he said while speaking at Tuesday’s meeting. “That would make me feel uncomfortable and not true to myself.”

Students, parents, and community members gathered outside the district administration building before Tuesday’s meeting.

Many were protesting the policy, saying it’s in direct violation of Title IX.

“Our main purpose is to make sure trans students and all students in the district feel welcome and have a healthy environment to learn in,” said Jamie Beth Cohen, a parent in the Hempfield School District.

“I have a friend who is a boy, but his original sex is a girl but he chose that he’s a boy and if he were to play on a team, he would have to play on the girls’ team, which isn’t fair,” said Hempfield student, Miriam Janisewski.

School board members in favor of the policy say it’s about protecting female athletes.

Janisewski, an 8th-grade track and cross-country runner, doesn’t feel allowing transgender students to play on a team based on their gender identity would create an unfair advantage.

“It wouldn’t really make a difference if it’s just one person, and also I feel like they should be on the team they’re comfortable with playing on,” said Janisewski.

Other parents support the district’s decision.

“I think it’s important to recognize the biological differences between men and women and I think by not doing that, you’re denying science and putting all females at a disadvantage,” said Hempfield parent, Meridith Hilt.

One of the school board members who voted against the policy, Jim Maurer, says he’s concerned the district will now be at risk of losing federal funding or be at risk of lawsuits.

It’s yet to be seen if any legal action will be taken.

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