Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Transgender student athletes have found themselves in the national spotlight in the past few months.
Now, one southern New Mexico school district has entered that conversation. During a board work session it will discuss its own resolution calling for transgender girls to be excluded from girls sports.
The Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education will consider the proposed resolution, which expresses support for similar legislation, Superintendent Jerrett Perry told the Journal last week. He added the board will hold a work session and decide whether members should take action at a regular meeting.
While not legally binding, the resolution echoes many of the arguments seen in various states’ bills.
“The Board of Education of Alamogordo Public Schools supports the protection of girls by prohibiting the participation by students of the biological male sex on an athletic team designated for females, women or girls,” the resolution states.
The Journal obtained a copy of the resolution through a public records request.
The move comes as dozens of state legislatures have considered similar bills that restrict which teams transgender students can join. Supporters of the bills say many transgender students of the biological male sex are physically stronger than girls, giving them an unfair advantage. Opponents argue these bills can exacerbate isolation and mental health issues that disproportionately impact transgender students.
Emails from district officials show state Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, wrote the resolution. Cook had sponsored a similar bill, House Bill 304, which was swiftly tabled by committee Democrats, in the last regular session.
Cook said he wrote the resolution at the request of Amy Barela, New Mexico Republican Party Congressional District 2 vice chair. Emails also show Barela sent the resolution to Board President Angela Cadwallader on April 6, urging her to take it on.
“Would you like to present?” Barela asked Cadwallader in the email. “I would like to fill the room with supporters to ensure this passes.”
Barela told the Journal she requested the resolution as a private citizen, not in her capacity with the Republican Party.
The resolution proposal comes weeks after Perry and Cadwallader voiced support for HB 304 at its committee hearing. They argued the bill supported the tenets of Title IX, the 1972 law that forbids sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funds.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January requiring federal agencies to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Days later, Perry responded in an email to school board members.
“It has certainly created incredible anxiety as it orders that we allow transgender students to enter into locker rooms and participate in athletic teams to which they identify their gender,” Perry wrote.
“I feel very strongly about advocating AGAINST this order,” he continued. “It is a hill worth dying on.”
Perry did not respond when asked if transgender students in Alamogordo are currently allowed to use locker rooms or join teams that align with their gender identity. Alamogordo athletics director Johnnie Walker said he wasn’t aware of any transgender athletes in the district.
Four percent of Alamogordo High School students said they identified as transgender or gender-fluid, according to the 2019 Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, compared with 3% of high schoolers statewide.
The New Mexico Activities Association’s handbook states transgender students can join a sports team of their gender after their birth certificate is amended.
Cook told the Journal he was concerned transgender girls could injure other female athletes during games and prevent some from receiving scholarships. He also said he did not know of any transgender student athletes in his legislative district.
Transgender Resource Center executive director Adrien Lawyer said he believes legislation like HB 304 only hurts transgender students and doesn’t help cisgender female athletes.
“There’s this feigned concern for women’s sports, but never is any other measure ever undertaken to strengthen or bolster women’s sports,” Lawyer said.
Cook acknowledged that this type of bill is discriminatory.
“It’s necessary discrimination to protect girls,” he said.
Perry declined multiple requests for an interview. One board member, Judy Rabon, also declined to comment. The other four school board members did not respond to interview requests.