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Kansas sports physicals will ask sex at birth after lawmakers restrict trans athletes

McClatchy file photo

Kansas students who participate in high school and middle school sports will be asked their sex at birth at pre-season physicals, after the Republican-controlled Legislature banned transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association, which governs school sports, approved a policy Wednesday to implement the ban, which lawmakers forced into law over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto earlier this month. The association’s executive board approved the policy unanimously.

Student athletes are already required to undergo yearly physicals, conducted by medical personnel, often physicians or advanced registered nurse practitioners. The association on Wednesday also approved tighter privacy rules over the physical evaluation form, which are intended to ensure coaches and other sports officials don’t casually view students’ private medical information.

If a dispute over an athlete’s sex is disputed, the policy says the school shall refer to the student’s original birth or adoption certificate as completed at or near the time of birth. If that doesn’t resolve the question, the student’s parents shall produce documentation from a licensed physician indicating the biological sex of the student “based upon an evaluation using current standard assessment protocols.”

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The assessment protocols aren’t defined. Bill Faflich, the association’s director, said doctors could utilize several methods, including a physical exam, a karyotype test that involves analyzing blood or body fluids, or an assessment of testosterone levels.

Opponents of the ban have said the law could lead to genital inspections of athletes. Faflich emphasized that he isn’t telling doctors how to do exams and that the policy relies on documentation or medical personnel — at no point are school or sports personnel involved in determining sex.

“A genital inspection would be done when a kid is suspected of a hernia – it has nothing to do with determining their biological sex,” Faflich said. “So no, that’s not ever come out of this office. That’s not an expectation before, it’s not an expectation moving forward.”

The association policy says that if a student’s biological sex still can’t be determined, the student may still play on boys or mixed teams.

The number of transgender athletes competing in middle or high school sports is small. The association has previously said three transgender girls competed in sports in grades 7-12 this school year.

Republicans had passed multiple bans on transgender athletes in recent years, but had been unable to override Kelly’s veto until this year. They were helped by one Democrat, Rep. Marvin Robinson of Kansas City, Kansas.

When the Legislature overrode Kelly’s veto on April 5, House Republican leaders said the law protects female athletes by ensuring a level playing field. The legislators said these athletes “deserve every chance at success afforded their male counterparts.”

Deena Horst, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education who sits on the activities association’s executive board, said she understood concerns about fairness in girls’ sports. But she said the organization’s previous policy on transgender athletes worked.

The policy allowed individual schools to determine the appropriate team for transgender athletes. Appeals were possible under the old policy, but no one ever appealed, she said.

“When things are working, why are you messing with it?” Horst said.