Females who protested participation of male athlete can continue to compete: Judge

Unsplash/Austris Augusts
Unsplash/Austris Augusts

Female student-athletes who protested a court decision invalidating a law requiring athletes to compete on sports teams that match their biological sex can continue to participate in track meets, a judge has ruled.

In issuing a preliminary injunction last week, Judge Thomas Bedell of the Circuit Court of Harrison County, West Virginia, sided with middle school track athletes Katrina Guthrie, Sabrina Shriver, Alawna Powell and Makenna Earnest.

The athletes had filed a lawsuit against the Harrison County Board of Education after the school district allegedly retaliated against them for sitting out a track and field competition in protest of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision striking down a state law banning biological male athletes from competing in women's sports.

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However, the school district contends that the coach applied a neutral rule that athletes who scratch from an event cannot compete in the same event for the next meet. 

Judge Bedell said the case "needs flushed out in the course of this litigation," according to the West Virginia Press Association.

The athletes' April 18 protest came two days after the 4th Circuit decision. At the track meet where they forfeited, a trans-identified male athlete was present. A week later, the principal of the school they attended informed the girls that they could not compete in an April 27 track meet because of their actions at the April 18 event. 

The complaint alleged that the actions of the school district violated a provision of the West Virginia Constitution stating that "No law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, shall be passed; but the legislature may by suitable penalties, restrain the publication or sale of obscene books, papers, or pictures, and provide for the punishment of libel, and defamation of character, and for the recovery, in civil actions, by the aggrieved party, of suitable damages for such libel, or defamation."

The lawsuit asked a judge to issue a ruling declaring that the school district's actions violated the West Virginia Constitution and ordering the reversal of the disciplinary action taken against the student-athletes. 

The complaint also requested payment of costs and attorney's fees for the plaintiffs. 

The Harrison County Board of Education reacted to the development in a statement insisting that it "strongly denies any form of retaliation against the Lincoln Middle School students who voluntarily chose to scratch from an event at the Harrison County Middle School Championship Track Meet."

"The students were permitted to engage in their selected form of protest without issue," the board maintains. 

"In fact, the coaches and principal were aware of the likelihood of the protests and permitted the students to remain on the roster for their events. Those students, like all of the other students on the team, however, were subject to a team rule that any player who scratches in an event cannot participate in that event at the next track meet. This neutral, school-specific rule was in place before the students' protests and has nothing to do with those protests in any way."

"Other than not being permitted to participate in the same event in which they scratched at the next track meet, the students have competed in track meets and events following their protests without restriction," the Board of Education maintained. 

In a statement, West Virginia's Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey expressed gratitude that the "courageous young girls" are "able to play."

"I want to say to these students and their parents: I have your backs," he said.

"You saw unfairness and you expressed your disappointment and sacrificed your personal performances in a sport that you love; exercised your constitutionally protected freedom of speech and expression. These girls didn't disrupt anything when they protested. They should be commended, not punished. We need to teach them that it is noble to stand firm in their beliefs and address their grievances within the protections guaranteed by our constitution," he added.

"They need not to be silent," Morrisey added. "They have won by having their voices heard."

Debates about biological males who identify as females participating in women's sports have become contentious in the American political landscape. 

The biological differences between men and women, combined with real-world examples of biological males dominating women's sports, have prompted states to craft bills designed to create an even playing field for female athletes. More than two dozen states, including West Virginia, have passed such laws or regulations. 

However, West Virginia's law is currently on hold due to a legal challenge, as are similar measures in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Ohio and Utah. Laws or regulations designed to prevent trans-identified males from competing in women's sports are in place in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Concerns about biologically male athletes who identify as females participating in women's sports stem from the biological differences between men and women that give males, on average, an advantage over females in athletics.

USA Powerlifting, which adopted a policy requiring athletes to compete based on biological sex, lists such differences as "increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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