A high school in Utah looked into a student athlete's school records dating back to kindergarten to find out if she was registered as female after the parents of two students she beat in a state-level competition filed a complaint questioning her assigned sex at birth.
The investigation was done at the request of the Utah High School Activities Association last year after a student "clearly outclassed" her second- and third-place competitors at a state event, David Spatafore, a lobbyist representing the UHSAA, said at a Utah Legislature Education Interim Committee meeting on Wednesday.
"The parents of the second- and third-place student[s] filed a complaint that day with our UHSAA, which was governing the activity," Spatafore said, declining to say what sport or school the student was involved in to avoid revealing her identity.
The association then contacted the girl’s high school to check what her sex was listed as on their records, Spatafore said. He said the school checked her records as far back as kindergarten.
Officials did not tell the student that they were looking into her records to confirm her assigned sex at birth.
"The student, to our knowledge, never did know unless the school told them, which is not our responsibility," he said.
"If there was a question on any of the school records for this particular student ... then we would have gone to the parents," Spatafore said. "But everything was clear. You know, if a student is registering as a female in kindergarten, that was pretty clear to us."
The association has fielded complaints about whether female students were eligible to compete in events even before HB11 became law. Some of the complaints, Spatafore said, amounted to, "that female athlete that doesn't look feminine enough."
The UHSAA took every complaint "seriously," he added, and followed up with the schools.
"We didn't get to the parents or the student, simply because if all of the questions about [participation] eligibility were answered by the school or the feeder system schools," he said, "there was no reason to make it a personal situation with a family or that athlete."
Lawmakers in several states have passed increasingly restrictive laws on LGBTQ students' rights, including trans students in particular, prohibiting them from playing school sports and barring them from accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
Suicide rates among trans people are disproportionately high, especially among trans youth. A 2020 survey by the Trevor Project found that 1 in 5 trans and nonbinary youth had attempted suicide within the past 12 months.
The Utah legislation, HB11, was passed by the state legislature in early March but was quickly vetoed by Gov. Spencer Cox. In an impassioned letter detailing his reasons for vetoing the bill, Cox pointed out that there were four trans students out of 75,000 playing high school sports in the state, and only one of whom was playing female sports.
"Rarely has so much anger been directed at so few," he wrote. "I don't understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicide significantly."
The Utah state legislature voted to override Cox's veto and the law went into effect in July.