The Alaska Board of Education and Early Development heard nearly three hours of public testimony Wednesday over a regulation to limit high school girls sports in Alaska to athletes assigned female at birth. About two-thirds of the testimony was against the regulation.
The board did not take action on the proposal, and tabled the item to be taken up at a later meeting. Board Chair James Fields said another meeting should be held to answer any additional questions.
“Trying to create an excellent education for every student every day when you have a conflict in the middle of it trying to navigate that needle isn’t easy,” Fields said. “So I think we’re at the point where we need to take a little bit of extra time.”
Ahead of the meeting, the board received over 1,400 pages of public testimony.
Kuba Grzeda is a runner and coaches high school and college athletes in Fairbanks. He told the board he opposes the regulation.
“When trans kids are forced to compete in sports that don’t align with their gender identity, what should be a positive experience can cause feelings of alienation and exclusion which can lead to depression and anxiety and other mental health issues,” Grzeda said. “I’ve seen a lot of speculation and what-if scenarios, but there has not really been a documented wave of transgender athletes dominating any sport at any level across the world.”
Malinda Linstid of Juneau said she was in favor of the proposal, and would support creating a third category for trans and gender non-conforming student athletes, instead of allowing them to compete with boys or girls.
“There are reasons that male and female divisions were initially developed, mainly safety and fairness,” Linstid said. “We are here to have as even a playing field as possible, for all of our children, just like our country is to become a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but the ability to actually talk and discuss and debate things to try and make it as open for everybody as possible.”
The regulation would change athletics for all Alaska school districts except the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, where a ban on trans athletes passed in June of 2022.