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Gwynne Ann Unruh is a former award winning reporter at the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is advising the Alamogordo Public School Board of Education, the superintendent’s office and the athletics department that a proposed policy that would ban trans youth from participating in sports would violate state and federal law. The ACLU also advised the Board that the policy would make it difficult for trans students to thrive and feel safe at school.

On June 26 the Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education scheduled a work session to determine if the school board would consider a proposed resolution that could restrict participation in sports by transgender girls who were assigned male at birth from competing against cisgender girls assigned female at birth in high school athletics.  

“This proposed policy not only runs counter to state and federal law, but it also creates a hostile environment for trans youth,” said Legal Director at the ACLU of New Mexico Leon Howard. “Trans youth should never have to fear going to school or participating in a meaningful activity just because of who they are. They should be able to attend school in an environment that is safe, welcoming and affirming.” 

The United States Supreme Court held in 2020 that discriminating against someone on the basis of them being transgender or queer runs afoul of the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The federal government, as of March 2021, determined the reasoning of this opinion logically applies to other provisions of the Civil Rights Act, like Title IX, which applies to schools.

Alamogordo Public Schools Superintendent Jerrett Perry has stated that, “Numerous states have already banned this practice, arguing that it negatively impacts biological female athletes. Many decision makers can argue that this practice is in direct violation of Title IX, which impedes biological female opportunities on the court, field and life. I support this stance and will adamantly defend the integrity of biological female athletes.” 

The New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) provides that gender identity and sex are protected from discrimination in matters of employment, housing, credit, union membership and at public accommodations. Athletic and extracurricular activities fall within the definition of public accommodations under the NMHRA. 

“Trans children already face extreme hardships that stem from coordinated attacks on their very existence and continued discrimination they face at almost every turn,” said Howard. “The Alamogordo Public School Board should consider the deep harm that this policy would enact and, rather than choosing to make trans children’s lives more difficult, take measures to ensure they can live in dignity.” 

The ACLU has urged the Alamogordo Public School Board to immediately pull the proposed resolution and make it clear in a public form that the resolution was ill-advised and illegal. The organization has also urged the school district to publish a document, signed by the school board, clarifying that the district welcomes, supports and affirms trans students of all kinds and that they engage in trans-specific sensitivity training as a board. The school board is urged to make this training available to district staff as well.

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