School districts in Moody County are taking a wait-and-see approach to Gov. Kristi Noem’s executive order requiring a ban on transgender athletes playing girls’ sports.
Superintendents at both Flandreau and Colman-Egan schools say they have been advised by the South Dakota High School Activities Association to wait until a special session of the Legislature meets about the topic. Lawyers of the association and the School Administers of South Dakota are all looking at issues that have been raised about the executive order.
Those questions include whether Noem has the authority to issue an executive order because state lawmakers have given the power to regulate school activities to the SDHSAA. In addition, the order doesn’t mesh with the long-standing practice that school boards have local control in passing policies. The implementation timeframe of the change also is not specified. School district students already are participating in the spring sports of track and field and in golf at this point in the year.
“That’s all the things that nobody knows right now,” said Flandreau Superintendent Rick Weber.
Colman-Egan also is planning on getting questions answered by the SDHSAA and state administrators’ group. “We’re in a wait-and-see mode right now,” said Superintendent Brian Corlett.
Neither school district has had a time when a transgender student has wanted to play on a girls’ team.
During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers approved a change that would have banned transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports and would have required that the athletes play on teams that match the gender at the time they were born. Noem initially said she was excited to get to sign that change into law. But later she said she wanted to tweak the language of the bill, concerned it would not pass legal challenges.
By refusing to sign the bill into law as written, Noem effectively vetoed it. Lawmakers in the state House did not have enough votes to override the veto.
She has said she will call a special session of lawmakers in May or June. She them issued two executive orders, one aimed at high school sports and the other at collegiate-level athletes.
“Only girls should play girls sports,” she tweeted before issuing the orders.
Rep. Randy Gross, representing District 8, supported the initial legislation and the efforts to override the governor’s veto. But he isn’t sure what will be planned for the special legislative session because there is no bill on the table yet. He said the Republican party generally opposes executive orders because the legislature is given the task of making the laws.
“The legislators worked hard on the bill,” he said. “It’s a little frustrating.”
The governor has two choices in the process, Gross said.
“The Legislature is supposed to pass the laws. If the governor doesn’t like them, she should either veto them, or let it become law.”