A public school district in Western New York has severed ties with a doctor whose medical assessment was that a 12-year-old girl should not compete on a boys' junior varsity wrestling team.
The Lancaster Central Schools Board of Education voted unanimously over the weekend to terminate the school district's contract with medical director Dr. Michael Terranova, according to WKBW, Buffalo’s ABC News affiliate.
The decision came after Terranova denied the request of seventh grader Trista Blasz to wrestle on the junior varsity boys’ wrestling team at Lancaster Middle School.
Blasz is no stranger to wrestling as she won the girls’ 12U 86-pound weight class at National United Wrestling Association for the Youth National Championship in April 2018. She has also wrestled boys in the past.
Blasz also passed two tests mandated by the state that determine her body’s maturity and asses how capable she is of doing physical activities such as pushups or pullups.
Blasz’s family objected to the fact that a boy in her seventh grade class also passed both tests and was allowed to compete on the JV team without having to go through a panel consisting of the school's doctor, a primary care doctor, and a gym teacher to get approval.
According to WKBW, neither the doctor nor the gym teacher approved of Blasz's wrestling on the JV team.
The student was informed through a form that her request to compete in high school boys’ wrestling was denied. WKBW reports that the rejection form included a hand-written note from Terranova that stated: "Girls don't play boys sports in Lancaster schools."
Terranova was an independent contractor and not a school district employee. He is also co-founder of Lancaster-Depew Pediatrics. The school board voted to end its 35-year partnership with Lancaster-Depew Pediatrics due to the doctor's assessment.
Following news reports of Terranova’s rejection of Blasz’s request to wrestle, Lancaster-Depew Pediatrics issued a statement to its patients and their families denying claims that it discriminated against Blasz.
“Permission was denied based on objective standards mandated by the state,” the statement from the medical provider reads. “This decision was motivated by concerns about the student's safety and physical maturity. Despite public outcry initiated by the student's parent, any form of discrimination is strenuously denied."
The district has opted to turn to Forestream Pediatrics in Depew as its new medical partner.
On Tuesday, a new review panel cleared Blasz to wrestle on the JV team. She is expected to attend her first practice on Tuesday afternoon.
Allowing girls to compete in male-only sports and boys to compete in female-only sports has become a subject of intense debate in recent years as activists have pushed for greater affirmation of transgender athletes.
Although Blasz is not transgender, some have argued that biological realities related to muscle mass, bone density, bone structure and connective tissue put biological females at a distinct disadvantage when competing with males, especially in sports where much physicality is involved.
Blasz's aunt is said to have faced a similar situation over a decade ago when she also failed a medical assessment with the same doctor after she expressed a desire to wrestle boys.
"Their excuse was muscle mass [which was] used with my sister 12 years ago," mother Danielle Blasz told the news outlet.
In a statement, Lancaster Central School District Superintendent Michael Vallely said that “mixed-gender high school sports teams for students who qualify exist in districts across the state.” Vallely stated that he did not agree with the decision to prevent Blasz from wrestling.
"Girls can do anything boys can do, and they should be told that, and they should be encouraged to do that,” Lancaster Central School District Board of Education President Patrick Uhteg told Spectrum News. “And when they succeed as Trista clearly has thus far, they should be celebrated and congratulated and we should be moving forward, not back."