Hundreds come out for heated debate about transgender athletes in Hempfield School District


LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — On Tuesday night the Hempfield School Board discussed their athletic policy and how it impacts transgender athletes.

Back in April, the school board put together a committee made up of board members, students, coaches and administrators to talk about their athletic policy and “concerns about athletic integrity, student participation and eligibility, gender equity, and safety.”

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In their board meeting on Tuesday night, hundreds of people came to hear the debate about the athletic policy. Dozens spoke on both sides of the issue of how transgender students participate.

District parent Jamie Beth Cohen organized a silent rally with supporters of transgender athletes and students. They were there ahead of Wednesday’s meeting standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“We’re showing up to show students in the community that regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen in that room, there’s a critical mass of people who support them, who love them, who affirm them for who they are, and want what’s best for them,” Cohen said.

After more than 4 hours of public comment, board members voted to have the administration work with a law firm to come up with an athletic policy that covers how transgender students can participate. They are then supposed to report back to the board on August 10th.

People on both sides were disappointed that no concrete decision was made. However parent Liz White says she’s optimistic.

“I have a lot of faith in the administration at Hempfield here. I’ve had a lot of conversations with various officials, so I feel like we still have a chance of landing on the right side of this issue and the right side of history,” White said. “I think we have to support all students and I think we can make all students comfortable. I think there’s really logical tangible ways to make all students feel supported, but it is a life or death situation for trans students.

Student Katelyn Shearer says she hopes when the administration is creating that policy they consider the views of students like her.

“I want them to be considering what students said. I know a lot of teachers talked and parents talked, but I feel like students are the ones that are dealing with this the most right now and it effects them more than taxpayers and parents,” Shearer said. “I’m really hoping that transgenders are allowed to participate on sports teams of their biological sex, the sex they were at birth, just because I feel like it’s an unfair playing field with anything different.”

Cohen emphasized the hundreds of people that came to the rally beforehand to show support for trans students. She hopes the administration follows their lead when they make the policy.

“I think the administration here is amazing. I’m super excited that they are going to be involved in creating whatever comes next,” Cohen said. “I’m from a sports family. We are a sports family. Sports are so important, and students’ lives are still more important.”

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