Philly Schools to Review Policy Allowing Students to Pick Team ‘Of the Gender of Which They Identify’

The board would review making the proposed changes at a January meeting. 
They and Them Pronouns on Rainbow Paper
Photo: Katie Rainbow/Unsplash

(The Center Square) – The School District of Philadelphia will review language it proposes to be formally included in its existing policy that allows students to pick the gender of the team for which they want to play.

The agenda for the Dec. 15 school board meeting has new language under “Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Student Participation” policy for interscholastic activities that states, “Students participating in interscholastic athletics may participate on the team of the gender with which they identify.”

The district has two separate policies that address transgender athletes with one being passed in 2016 and the other in 2017. The new language is simply an update to the 2017 policy due to a customary five-year review of board policies, according to the district. The language being reviewed was in the 2016 policy that was referenced by the newer 2017 policy.

The board would review making the proposed changes at a January meeting

Marissa Orbanek, spokeswoman for the school district, said the policy being voted on in January was initially approved in 2017. Orbanek said the January review is to consider explicitly incorporating the language of the referenced 2016 policy into the newer policy. 

Orbanek said the review does not indicate any change in board policy regarding transgender athletes.

The older 2016 policy stated, “Interscholastic Competitive Sports Teams Participation in competitive athletic activities and contact sports will be resolved on a case-by-case basis.” Orbanek said that doesn’t mean that there would be a review of cases by the district.  “The case-by-case language refers to what students choose in that case, not a review process,” Orbanek said.

The words “male” and “female” are scrubbed from the modified 2017 policy, according to online documents provided by the district.

State law says, “Interscholastic and intramural teams playing contact sports may be separated by sex, but this subsection may not be used to exclude students of either sex from participating in a sport.”

The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that would have barred boys from playing in girls’ sports. However, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed that legislation on July 8.

“My administration is committed to supporting transgender individuals and ensuring that Pennsylvania is an inclusive place, and we stand against efforts to divide us and distract us from critical work needed to enhance protections for LGBTQ+ young people,” Wolf wrote in his veto.

Tom Gantert
Tom Gantert worked at many daily newspapers including the Ann Arbor News, Lansing State Journal and USA Today. Gantert was the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential for five years before joining The Center Square.

Don't Miss Out!

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest education news and commentary everyone ought to know about.