Students Punished After Opposing Trans Athlete Policy

( A group of female middle school athletes in West Virginia were temporarily prohibited from participating in track and field competition for protesting the inclusion of a biologically male competitor. The five girls’ coach suspended them from competing at the next sporting event for the act of protest, sparking a legal battle over the incident.

In April 2024, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a West Virginia policy banning transgender athletes from competing under their self-identified gender violated federal civil rights protections. The decision allowed a 13-year-old male to compete in the female track and field division at the 2024 Harrison County Middle School Championships. A biological male ultimately won first place in the shot put event and second place in the discus throw.

In an act of protest, five female athletes entered the shot put circle but refused to throw, constituting a forfeit. The rules of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission state that student athletes can be barred from future competition for violating sportsmanship guidelines.

However, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey backed the protesting athletes and filed a lawsuit against the county board of education. The student athletes “saw unfairness” and exercised their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression, Morrisey said. The girls ought to be commended, not punished, Morrisey added.

One of the punished female athletes, Sabrina Shriver, said that she never expected the act of protest to “blow up” in the way that it did. Shriver said that she and her fellow female athletes were shocked and disappointed that a male was permitted to compete alongside them.

The incident comes in the wake of a Title IX policy change by the Biden administration, which expanded the policy’s protections to cover transgender students. The new policy allows students to participate in activities consistent with their self-professed gender identity. Several states have sued the Department of Education in an effort to reverse the policy change.

Although the Biden administration is expanding the federal educational protections, it appears as though the policy change fails to protect biologically female athletes, leaving them to advocate for themselves through such acts of protest.

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