Kansas School Sports Act Doesn’t Require ‘Genital Inspections,’ Contrary to Online Posts
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Kansas passed a bill allowing only “biologically female” students to play on girls’ and women’s athletic teams from elementary through college. Social media posts misleadingly claim the bill will allow “forced genital inspections” of students. The bill doesn’t mention genital inspections, and it leaves the implementation of policies up to schools’ governing bodies.
Twenty-one states have passed laws banning “transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity,” according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Photo credit: zeljkosantrac via Getty Images
Among those states is Kansas, where the legislature has passed House Bill 2238, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which requires that “female student athletic teams only include members who are biologically female.”
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the bill on March 17. But the state House and Senate overrode the veto on April 5, and the law is set to take effect on July 1.
The act bans transgender girls or women from participating in female sports from elementary through college in public schools and private schools that compete against public schools. Student athletic teams are to be “expressly designated” as male, female or coed. “The bill does not exclude students of the female sex from participating on athletic teams designated for males,” a summary of the bill noted.
Opponents of the bill have described it as anti-LGBTQ legislation.
After the veto was overturned, social media posts misleadingly claimed that Kansas law will allow genital examinations on students who want to play sports.
“This is Kansas House Speaker Daniel Hawkins (R). He Just passed a new anti-LGBTQ bill that allows for forced genital inspections of children in order for them to play sports. Republicans are currently working to pass these types of bills across the country,” read a viral tweet posted on April 5.
A video shared on Instagram on April 12 featured the tweet and further spread the claim. “Kansas Republicans vote for the right to inspect the genitals of any student athlete (age 5 through college),” read the caption of the video.
But the bill does not say anything about genital inspections. In fact, the bill does not specify how the rules will be implemented.
Hawkins, the Kansas House speaker, tweeted that the claim on social media that the new law will lead to genital inspections of students is inaccurate.
“There’s absolutely no language or intent in the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act to require any type of genitalia inspection and that will not be the outcome of the bill. I encourage folks to always do their research in cases like this. Especially when tensions run high, it’s important to look to facts and not accept social media posts as the final word,” Hawkins said.
Republican Rep. Barbara Wasinger, who introduced the bill, also told us in an email there’s no mention of genital inspections in the act.
“Read the bill. There is no mention of genitalia checks,” she said. “Reality is this: 1. Every child in Kansas must supply a valid birth certificate to attend school. 2. Every child in Kansas must have a sports physical in order to play sports.”
(It is common for schools to require a pre-participation evaluation, or sports physical, prior to participating in athletics, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.)
The bill states that the Kansas State High School Activities Association, or KSHSAA, an association that oversees athletic and non-athletic competition in Kansas for students in grades 7 to 12, will need to adopt rules on how to implement the bill provisions for member schools. The Kansas Board of Regents and the governing bodies for universities, community colleges and technical colleges will create rules for schools at the college level.
Wasinger also sent us a copy of the form being currently used by the KSHSAA for a sports physical.
The form — which must be completed by a health care provider — asks numerous health questions and requires a medical professional to determine if a student is eligible to play sports.
The form, which was revised after the law passed, now asks for the student’s “sex at birth.” The form also asks, as it has since at least March 2020, “How do you currently identify your gender?”
High School Implementation Plan
On April 27, the KSHSAA executive board created a policy to comply with the new law, Bill Faflick, the association’s executive director, told us in an email.
The new policy — which is set to go into effect on July 1 — states that sports in the state will be designated as male, female or coed, and “athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
“Biological sex means the biological indication of the male and female in the context of reproductive potential or capacity such as sex chromosomes, gonads and nonambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, without regard to an individual’s psychological, chosen or subjective experience of gender,” the KSHSAA policy states.
The policy also says that schools will use the physical exam form to determine which team is appropriate for each student. The KSHSAA Handbook states, as it has in the past, that students cannot represent their school in sports until completing a physical exam.
According to the KSHSAA policy, a student who is assigned as a male at birth — including a transgender female student — is not eligible to play on a girls’ sports team. If a dispute about a student’s gender occurs, a school should refer to the student’s original birth or adoption papers “completed at or near the time of birth,” the policy says.
“If clarity is not achieved or if the original birth or adoption certificate is not available, the student’s parent/guardian shall produce documentation provided by a licensed physician indicating the biological sex of the student based upon an evaluation using current standard assessment protocols,” the policy states.
The term “standard assessment protocols” isn’t defined in the KSHSAA policy. Faflick told the Kansas City Star that physicians could use several methods, including an exam, a karyotype test that uses blood to analyze chromosomes, or an assessment of testosterone levels.
If no determination can be made, then the student can participate only in male or coed sports.
Currently, there are only three transgender girls known to be playing sports in Kansas out of 41,000 girls competing in high school athletics, according to NPR.
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