DORSET — The Mid Vermont Christian School girls basketball team forfeited its first-round game in the Division IV state tournament last Tuesday because it refused to play against a team with a transgender athlete.
The 12-seed MVCS (5-12) withdrew from the tournament rather than play 5-seed Long Trail School (14-6). MVCS is located in White River Junction; Long Trail School is in Dorset.
It is not clear whether MVCS’ decision originated from the players, coaches or administration. The school, per the decision of its board, offered no comment except a statement by email from Head of School Vicky Fogg:
“We withdrew from the tournament because we believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players. Allowing biological males to participate in women’s sports sets a bad precedent for the future of women’s sports in general.”
Long Trail Head of School Colin Igoe and Athletic Director John Schneble did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lauren Thomas, assistant executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association, said an objection or protest of this nature is a first for the state of Vermont.
“This is the first time where a school has expressed that they were withdrawing over those concerns,” Thomas said. “We have transgender athletes in various sports, not just basketball, not just in team sports. We have individuals. So we have students that are participating as they are.”
Thomas said that MVCS chose to withdraw from the tournament without comment, and that the VPA only found out about MVCS’ motivations after the fact.
Thomas added that the VPA and the Vermont Agency of Education already has established policies regarding transgender athletes, and that no action was necessary.
“We already had the policy in place,” she said, later adding, “The policy is not new, it’s not reactionary. It’s been out there for a while. People are aware of it.”
The VPA released a statement on Oct. 5, 2022, shortly after an incident at Randolph Union High School involving a transgendered student’s use of locker room facilities, to reiterate its existing position on equity for all students and student-athletes. The statement closes with:
“Supporting transgender student-athletes is not only a core part of building an inclusive community for each student to grow and thrive, it is also a clear expectation by Vermont state law(s) in the Agency of Education Best Practices, and in VPA Policy regarding transgender student athletes.”
VPA’s policy has been on the books since early 2021 that it’s prohibition of discrimination includes “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
The AOE has held a similar position since at least 2017. Its “Continuing Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” document was last revised in February of that year. It references VSA 4502, which prohibits discrimination from public accommodations, including on the basis of sexual orientation.
MVCS does include a “Nondiscrimination Notice” at the bottom of its homepage, including the statement that it does not discriminate based on “race, color, gender, national, or ethnic origin.”