Philadelphia schools reviewing policy to allow trans-identified males compete in girls' sports

Athletes compete in the 5,000-meter final during the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on April 23, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon.
Athletes compete in the 5,000-meter final during the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on April 23, 2021 in Eugene, Oregon. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers

A Philadelphia school district is planning to review language in its existing policy for trans-identifying student participation on single-sex sports teams.

At its Friday meeting, the School District of Philadelphia is set to review and discuss updates to its current "Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Student Participation" policy for athletics, and will consider adding that “students participating in interscholastic athletics may participate on the team of the gender with which they identify.”

Under the original language in the policy for transgender or non-conforming students, the principal served as the “primary point of contact” for questions or concerns about the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). 

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The update to the language in the district’s transgender policy is part of a customary five-year review of policies. The current language under review in the policy was adopted by the district in 2016, which advocated for schools to, if possible, “reduce or eliminate the practice of segregating students by gender.” 

In addition, the 2016 policy also stated that schools should enable students to participate in physical education classes and intramural sports. Regarding competitive athletic activities and contact sports, the policy said that those will be resolved on a “case-by-case basis.” 

The board plans to vote on the proposed policy during a January meeting. 

The School District of Philadelphia did not immediately respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment. 

In a statement published Friday at The Center Square, Marissa Orbanek, spokeswoman for the school district, said the board initially approved the policy in 2017. The purpose of the upcoming review is to consider whether the new policy should contain language from the 2016 policy. 

However, the spokeswoman said that a review doesn’t necessarily constitute a change in policy toward athletes that identify as the opposite gender. 

Orbanek also clarified that the part of the 2016 policy that says trans-identifying athletes' participation in competitive or contact sports will be decided on a case-by-case basis isn’t referring to the district making that call. 

"The case-by-case language refers to what students choose in that case, not a review process," Orbanek said.

The inclusion of biological males who identify as female in girls’ sports has continued to raise concerns about fairness due to the natural physical differences between men's and women’s bodies.

As The Christian Post previously reported, multiple female swimmers at the University of Pennsylvania spoke out last year after a biological male teammate broke multiple women's records. The teammate, who goes by the name Lia Thomas, previously competed as a man named Will Thomas for three seasons. 

Speaking anonymously with the sports website OutKick, a female swimmer told the outlet that “[p]retty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this.” 

“On paper, if Lia Thomas goes back to Will Thomas’ best times, those numbers are female world records. Faster than all the times [Olympic medalist] Katie Ledecky [had] in college. Faster than any Olympian you can think of. His times in three events are [female] world records.”

Another anonymous female athlete told OutKick that Thomas outperforming women on the team had a negative impact on morale. 

They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put into it, they’re going to lose,” she stated. “Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors, and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got.”

“Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win,” the second anonymous teammate added. “I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

While progressive organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, deny that trans-identifying males possess a biological advantage over female athletes, critics often point to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine which found that male athletes retain an advantage over their female counterparts even after a year of using cross-sex hormones.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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