Hempfield School still unsure of transgender policy; hands decision off to hired law firm

Lancaster

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — After a very long and tense school board meeting about an athletic policy for transgender students, Hempfield School District Board members did not make any decision. Instead, the administration hired a law firm with conservative ties to come up with a policy.

The meeting wrapped up around midnight with hundreds of people attending. People on both sides are upset that they still don’t know how the school will handle transgender athletes.

According to the school board, there is no clear direction from the PIAA, the commonwealth or the courts on how to handle the issue. Ultimately, no decision on a policy was made.

“I thought it was an interesting decision. I kind of felt like they passed the buck around and nothing was concrete,” Kately Shearer, a high school junior said.

Right now, transgender students in the Hempfield School District can play on the team that matches their gender identity, but some want that policy to change.

“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 it would be an unfair playing field with anything different,” Shearer said.

Ralliers gathered ahead of the meeting to show their support for transgender athletes.

“More than anything, what we showed the community tonight is that 300 people care about trans students. We care about LGBTQ+ students. We care about students who have been historically marginalized in this community,” Jamie Beth Cohen, rally organizer, said.

The meeting ended with board members voting 5 to 2 with 1 person abstaining to hand the decision off to the administration. They” have to work with Independence Law Center, a Harrisburg-based law firm affiliated with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative nonprofit, to come up with a policy.

When asked why that law firm was chosen, the vice president of the school board said it’s “because they have significant experience with policy development and are experts in the relevant statutory and case law.”

Looking into the independence law center’s website, it says its mission is to defend, quote “the rights of people to freely exercise their religion,” along with other first amendment freedoms.

One of its lawyers was on the legal team for four Boyerstown Area students, who wanted the school to force transgender students to use bathrooms matching the sex they were assigned at birth. They lost the cause,

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