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    Male-born transgender tennis player fights Virginia school board after being kicked off girls' team

    By Valerie Richardson,

    10 days ago

    A Virginia transgender student who sued after being booted off the girls’ tennis team is hoping the school board will change its mind following a recent court ruling in favor of a male-to-female West Virginia athlete.

    The Hanover County School Board in Ashland, Virginia, is expected to take up a renewed request by “Janie Doe,” an 11-year-old middle-school student, to participate on the girls’ tennis team at its Tuesday evening meeting, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

    “The Hanover County School Board will have an opportunity to respond to ‘Janie Doe’s’ request to be allowed to play on her girls’ sports team during the coming fall season before the court hears arguments on her request for preliminary legal relief,” said the ACLU of Virginia in a statement .

    The board is scheduled to meet in closed session on Tuesday on matters including “Participation in Extracurricular Activities—Athletics” and “Status of Federal Regulations Related to Title IX Regulations.”

    Board spokesperson Chris Whitley declined to comment on the lawsuit, telling The Washington Times that it is “not the practice of the Hanover County School Board or Hanover County Public Schools to comment on pending litigation.”

    The ACLU filed a motion last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond) seeking to override the board, which rescinded Janie's eligibility for the team in September over concerns about ensuring “fairness in competition for all participants.”

    In November, the board followed up with a policy requiring students to participate in scholastic sports “based on biological sex rather than gender or gender identity.”

    Since then, however, the legal landscape has shifted. In April, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender middle-schooler who challenged West Virginia’s law requiring scholastic athletes to compete based on birth sex rather than gender identity.

    Virginia and West Virginia both fall under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

    “While the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in B.P.J. makes clear that policies like the one the School Board seeks to enforce against Janie are impermissible and violate federal law, the School Board has taken no steps to comply with that decision since it was issued in permitting Janie to participate on the girls’ tennis team in Fall 2024,” said the lawsuit.

    The ACLU also raised the Title IX issue, insisting that “discrimination against students because they are transgender is discrimination based on sex,” even though the Biden administration has run into legal trouble by adding “gender identity” to Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination in education.

    Three federal judges have temporarily blocked the administration from enforcing its Title IX rewrite in 14 states, including Virgina, in response to lawsuits brought by multi-state coalitions. The final rule is scheduled to take effect in states not covered by the court orders on Aug. 1.

    In Virginia, however, the legislative and executive branches are on very different pages when it comes to transgender eligibility in athletics.

    Democrats in the state legislature have, for the last three years, rejected bills to require students to compete in scholastic sports based on sex at birth, not gender identity.

    The Virginia High School League opted last year to keep in place its transgender policy, allowing students to compete based on gender identity, despite guidance from the state Department of Education under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin recommending separating school athletic programs by sex.

    Nobody denies that Janie Doe identifies as female. Since the third grade, Janie has dressed as a girl at school and used a female name and pronouns. In 2021, Janie’s parents had the child’s name and birth certificate changed legally, “reflecting her sex as female,” the lawsuit said.

    Janie, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2021, received a histrelin implant in September 2022 to block the onset of puberty.

    Janie made the girls’ tennis team in August 2023, but the board intervened, asking for more information about the gender transition before voting unanimously in a closed session on Sept. 12 against allowing the student to compete on the girls’ side.

    The decision didn’t stop Janie from playing tennis. The student joined a private league run by the U.S. Tennis Association that allowed Janie to compete “in accordance with her gender identity,” the lawsuit said.

    Last month, the board agreed to take another look after Janie’s parents renewed their request for the fall 2024 season and cited the 4th Circuit decision.

    "We jumped through every invasive hoop the school district asked us to so that our child could play, but it still wasn’t enough for them,” said the student’s father in a statement . “As a parent, I should be the one determining my children’s participation in extracurriculars, not the government, and certainly not unelected adults trying to score political points by bullying my daughter.”

    Becky Pepper-Jackson, 13, who is also represented by the ACLU, won the girls’ shot-put title at the Harrison County Middle School Championships in April, a week after the 4th Circuit temporarily blocked the state from enforcing its law.

    Five girls refused to compete against Pepper-Jackson, stepping into the circle and then stepping out again in a silent protest against the male-born athlete’s participation.

    West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican candidate for governor, has vowed to appeal the 4th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court.

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