SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) — Board members at Big Walnut Local Schools decided the future of sports for the district during a meeting Wednesday night.
The board unanimously voted to remain a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) after some board members raised concerns last week about the association’s policy for transgender athletes.
Those members said a letter for OHSAA helped answer the concerns they had.
“His information was very helpful to me and answered a lot of the questions I had last Thursday,” said board member Alice Nicks.
“Yes, it would have cleared up a lot,” added Doug Crowl, the board’s president.
In the letter, OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute said upcoming voting on an association referendum does not contain any issues pertaining to OHSAA’s transgender athlete policy, which has been in place since the 2015-16 school year.
“This policy was developed by staff with recommendations from both medical and legal consultants and was then codified within the bylaws by a vote of the member school principals of the OHSAA,” the letter states.
The board tabled the issue last week.
Last week, at least three of the five board members admitted to having concerns regarding the OHSAA policy. Without OHSAA membership, the school district would be ineligible for the postseason tournaments OHSAA runs.
Ute defended the association’s policy in the letter.
“The policy is reviewed annually,” Ute said. “The OHSAA’s current policy strikes an important balance between permitting transgender students to participate and preserving the integrity of girls’ sports by considering the tremendous variation among individuals as it relates to strength, size, genetic makeup, muscular structure and ability.”
Ute said less than 1 percent of student-athletes in the state have been approved to participate under the transgender policy.
Several parents said they were pleased with the vote, but not with everything they heard during the meeting before the vote.
“I’m not pleased with how they spun it as though if they had had this additional information our assistant superintendent had forwarded to them that that would have cleared things up,” said parent Jen Nieset.
“I was very disappointed in the fact they chose to spin it and try to place the blame on the fact they didn’t have information that has been readily available always,” said parent Danielle Russell.
The board members who said Ute’s letter answered their questions declined to comment when the meeting ended.
“I just want to see our kids being put at the forefront of the decisions of this board, not politics,” Nieset said. “I don’t want to see our kids being used as political pawns. That’s now what they’re here to do.”
The OHSAA’s transgender athlete policy is below.