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New Hanover County Board of Education passes transgender athlete policy

Advocates gathered in front of the New Hanover County Board of Education building to support the district's new trans athlete policy; facing them, protestors who organized to protest what they call Critical Race Theory.
Mattigan Holloway
Advocates gathered in front of the New Hanover County Board of Education building to support the district's new trans athlete policy; facing them, organizers protesting what they call Critical Race Theory.

Last night, New Hanover County School Board members considered a new policy allowing middle school students to play on the sports team that fits their gender identity.

Outside the Board's meeting hall, off of 13th Street, a crowd was chanting "Happy, Pride." They were gathered outside, waving pride flags and carrying signs, showing their support of the policy.

During the first of two hour-long public comment periods, about a dozen speakers spoke in favor of the policy. There was a smaller group present who opposed the policy on the grounds that it violates the integrity of girls’ sports, arguing that those born as biological males might have an unfair physical advantage.

The proposed policy for middle schoolers differs from the state-mandated high school protocol, which requires a third-party review of students’ gender -- a system advocates say is degrading and invasive.

Board member Nelson Beaulieu introduced a motion to waive the first reading of the policy and outright adopt it.

Board member Pete Wildeboer pushed back, both on waiving the first reading and the policy itself. Wildeboer suggested that the district's Title IX Director was pushing the policy change too quickly, although he didn't mention Jarelle Lewis by name. Wildeboer noted concerns about how coaches would handle situations, and also suggested that President Joe Biden could soon issue a more comprehensive nationwide policy.

Board Member Stephanie Kraybill argued the board shouldn’t break their process for reviewing policies, stating that the board had already violated its own rules of order twice that night.

“This is not mission critical. There is going to be no student harmed if we don’t pass this policy tonight," she said.

But board member Judy Justice disagreed, and called the policy critical.

“But I think this is important to the public. I do think it matters to the kids. I do think it matters to their parents. [...]. But at least give these kids an opportunity to be themselves, their authentic selves," she said.

A majority of the board members voted to waive a first reading; the vote was 4-3, with Kraybill, Wildeboer, and Hugh McManus voting against. In a separate vote, the board voted to approve the policy; that vote was 5-2, with Wildeboer and McManus voting against.

[Editor's note: During the meeting it appeared the first vote was 4-3 and the second vote was 5-2, although it was unclear whose vote changed. NHCS has since confirmed the votes.]

Below: Policy 3620

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR
Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.