NHC Board of Education votes to move forward with controversial sports policy, school calendar
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County’s Board of Education voted in favor of changing a policy to require students to play sports according to the gender on their birth certificate rather than the gender with which they identify.
“This is a start because there are many policies, you know, within the gender identity realm,” said Joshua Barber, president of New Hanover County Schools Republicans. “I think there’s a lot of work that needs to get done and this would be the beginning of that.”
Whether speakers argued for or against a change in policy 3620, the one thing they had in common was passion.
“I just don’t think there should be any biological males in any female sport because the truth is regardless, biological males will always have a physical advantage over a female,” said Barber.
Supporters of the change included the controversial Proud Boys group along with some parents and community members.
“This isn’t against transgenderism,” said one woman. “This is about protecting the children in the schools. I’m a mother.”
Meanwhile, those against the policy spoke in support of LGBTQ youth who might be excluded from their favorite sports simply because of how they identify.
“We’re really having a lot of our allies show up because they recognize that LGBTQ people and trans people are just human beings that are trying to live their lives, go to middle school, go to work,” said Caroline Morin, executive director of the LGBTQ Center of the Cape Fear Coast.
Tensions intensified when advocates butted heads with the Proud Boys, leading to an argument and chants to have the group removed.
When it came time for board members to discuss the issue, temperatures also ran hot.
Stephanie Walker expressed concern about the policy change opening the district up to possible lawsuits. Meanwhile, Stephanie Kraybill suggested tabling the discussion until board members were able to get more training on Title IX. After that motion was struck down, members went into a closed session to speak with a lawyer before making more decisions.
Discussions lasted until well after 10 p.m. before the board voted 4-3 in favor of the new policy. It will take effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
The new policy says “A student participating in middle school athletics may participate only on the team consistent with the gender on the student’s birth certificate unless in violation of North Carolina state law.”
Walker, Kraybill and Hugh McManus voted against the move. Josie Barnhart, Melissa Mason, Pat Bradford and chairman Pete Wildeboer voted in favor of the change.
For trans youth advocates, the news is disappointing but not the end of their efforts.
“When it comes to LGBTQ rights and trans rights, there’s no end of the road,” said Morin. “Generations from now, people will still be trying to make life better. We’ll still be here serving and loving our LGBTQ students the same way.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, board members heard a presentation on efforts to improve third-grade literacy. Literacy is down 10 percent compared to 2015. Leaders suggest that may be due to remote learning and hurdles brought on by Hurricane Florence in 2018.
Board members also considered a proposed calendar for the 2023-2024 school year. They voted in favor of that item as well.
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