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NYSED proposes changes to mixed competition rules for student-athletes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The New York State Education Department is proposing changes to regulations on mixed competition, which allows student-athletes to play in a sport of a different gender. But, some schools are against what the state is proposing.

The proposed change would allow for male and female student-athletes to participate on the same team if a school did not offer separate male and female teams at that school. There is a public comment period on the proposed changes, that we’re in right now, which ends later this month.

Currently, if a student-athlete wants to play a sport that’s predominantly of a different gender, families have to fill out a mixed competition form and try to get approval. But under this new proposal from the state: “Where a school does not provide sufficient opportunity for students of different genders to participate on separate teams, schools must permit a student of a different gender to participate in the team selection process.”

The State Education Department says this proposed change is about creating more equality and “encouraging mixed-gender teams.” But not all schools are on board.

“I think they need to take a step back and move a little more cautiously and get some more input from the field, I am completely liberal in my beliefs and liberal in the way we run our school district and supportive of all of our students, but I think the mixed competition is moving too fast,” said Niagara Falls Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

The proposed regulation goes on to say that if there is no tryout process, all students must be permitted to participate regardless of their self-identified gender. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has already expressed its concern — saying many of these decisions should be local decisions, which is something Laurrie agrees with.

“School districts should continue to have the ability to employ coaches who can determine their team’s roster during an evaluation period,” the NYSPHSAA said in a letter.

In terms of a timeline for this proposal, it will be put up for approval during the Board of Regents meeting in September — if approved the new regulations would go into effect on September 25.
Some school leaders don’t like that because that would be during the fall athletic season.

“To do something when one of the three sports seasons is more than 50 percent done it’s not fair and equitable to the winter or spring seasons,” Laurrie said.

WIVB News 4 has reached out to the Pride Center of Western New York for comment, but has not heard back.

Moms for Liberty of Erie County, which describes itself as a group that “empower(s) parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government,” issued a statement on the proposed regulations, saying it “strongly opposes the proposed amendments.”

“These amendments prioritize DEI-type policies over acknowledging the biological differences between men and women,” the statement read. “The primary concern should always be the safety of students. These proposed changes jeopardize the safety of female athletes and increase the risk of injury. Furthermore, they threaten fair competition, county and state records, and opportunities for college scholarships for female athletes.”

Another proposal is getting rid of what’s called the Tanner Test, which allows a student-athlete to play up or play down from their age level.

To give your opinion on the topic, you can send your comment to:

Angelique Johnson Dingle, Deputy Commissioner, NYS Education Department, Office of P-12 Education, 55 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217, (718) 722-2797 or via email at REGCOMMENTS@nysed.gov.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the WIVB News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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