‘Try harder at what, being a boy?’: Kennewick School Board defends Title IX



(The Center Square) – The Kennewick School Board passed a resolution condemning transgender participation in women’s athletics last week after a Spokane Valley student recently took the state title for the girls’ 400-meter dash.

Before becoming a state champion, the student raced with the boys, according to the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, and if the individual had done so this year, they wouldn’t have even placed 16th. Now, the Kennewick School Board is taking the reins and attempting to set an example of upholding Title IX.

While the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, or WIAA, policy states that “athletes will participate in programs consistent with their gender identity,” Title IX “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities.”

The two seek to defend each other; however, the overlap has also led to numerous women losing their chance at winning a championship. While some individuals may identify as female or more gender-fluid, being a biological male gives them an overwhelming edge over their peers.

“While five-foot six-inches is a great jump for a high school girl,” said Shelia Smith, Southridge High School’s head coach for girl’s track and field, “it ranks number 385 on the boys’ list for the state of Washington.”

Smith continued that if a boy was previously ranked behind hundreds of his peers and then transitioned, the individual could easily win a state title, but at the cost of ethics. While some argue that athlete deserves it just as much, others say it robs women’s athletics.

“Please let that sink in,” she said. “A JV boy can become a state champion in the girls’ division simply by identifying as a female. That could’ve happened to my daughter. The reality is that an average male athlete could win almost any event in the girl division at the state level.”

Smith noted that the athlete from East Valley High School also helped their team beat Southridge and other competitors for the 400-meter relay as well. She said it’s degrading and humiliating to expect Kennewick girls to compete against biological males.

“Especially when they’re told just to try harder,” Smith said. “Try harder at what, being a boy?”

If the best male high jumper in the state transitioned to being female, he would set a world record in women’s athletics, not just at the high school level but across history. He jumped an inch shy of seven feet; meanwhile, the women’s 1987 world record sits at 6-feet and 10.25 inches.

However, that reality extends beyond the high jump, relay and 400-meter dash, impacting other events and sports as well. Another community member testified last week, noting that World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, banned transgender athletes from elite competitions against women back in March if they’ve already gone through male puberty.

“You don’t get to have trans debates without trans voices anymore,” said Kara Koakes, a Kennewick School District parent who identifies with the transgender community.

Koakes spoke on behalf of the “trans and queer youth” in the audience that the school was “trying to keep scared and quiet.”

“There are more of you than they want you to know,” Koakes said. “Use your voice; do not let them take you out of the conversation. Together, you are louder, stronger and braver than they will ever be.”

Many others also testified for and against the resolution, which holds no power other than making a statement as districts across the country grapple with the same issue.

While some called on the WIAA to create a separate transgender division, others called the resolution another attempt to continue marginalizing an already vulnerable population.

“The Kennewick School District Board of Directors strongly affirms that ‘sex’ is defined as biological male or biological female as determined at birth, and is an immutable characteristic that cannot be changed, fluid, or altered … and strongly affirms that biological males should not participate in biological females’ sports,” the resolution reads.

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