By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN – Turnabout, it seems, doesn’t always equal fair play.
The head of a Nebraska board that governs school activities said the board has not yet voted on a policy protecting the rights of transgender athletes, a statement that appears to contradict what she told national media outlets such as the New York Times and Deadspin.
The group’s executive director, Rhonda Blanford-Green, had said the Nebraska School Activities Association passed a policy in December outlining a process to allow transgender student-athletes to change teams.
She now says her board of directors did not vote on the policy, as reported, and will do so in August.
Nebraska Watchdog reported last week the NSAA passed the policy, which sets up procedures for schools if transgendered students want to participate on the team they identify with – if a male student identifies as a female and wants to play on the girls’ team, for example.
But a member of the NSAA’s board of directors – the entity that supposedly passed the policy – told Nebraska Watchdog on Monday the transgender policy was discussed at the December meeting, but wasn’t voted on.
“We did not take action,” said Bob Reznicek, superintendent of schools for Boys Town schools. “Our understanding was we were going to vote on it in the spring.”
Reznicek, who has served on the NSAA board for 13 years, said the board typically discusses a policy one month and votes on it the next. He said he got a brief email from Blanford-Green on Monday confirming there was no official vote taken, so a vote would be taken at the board’s Aug. 21 meeting.
That is contrary to what Blanford-Green told multiple reporters. But this story has been odd from the start.
Stories about Nebraska’s transgender policy first appeared in the national press while few people in Nebraska seemed to know anything about it, until Nebraska Watchdog’s report came out last week. The policy was nowhere to be found in NSAA agendas or meeting minutes, although the policy itself could be found online.
But that online post has since been removed and replaced with a message from Blanford-Green saying the policy will be on the board’s August agenda to “eliminate any confusion on the transparency of the association or myself to formally address procedures for transgender participation within our board procedures.”
After other Nebraska media followed up on our story late last week, Blanford-Green told a Lincoln Journal Star reporter she proposed the policy to the board in November because she wanted to get it in the books before she appeared at a national conference on transgender student participation in sports.
Then, she told the Omaha World-Herald although the policy is on the books, it doesn’t appear in meeting minutes and would come back for “another vote” July 11 “to ensure that it is placed on official meeting records.” That date apparently has since been pushed back to Aug. 21.
Reznicek tells a different story.
“Yes, we did discuss it, but no, we did not vote on it,” he said. “Whenever we take official action, it should be in our official minutes.”
Whether this is the first or second vote on the policy – which apparently is up for debate – does he think it will pass?
“I don’t want to speculate on that,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s necessarily opposed to it.”
When asked why the vote wasn’t recorded in meeting minutes, Blanford-Green told Nebraska Watchdog via email she wasn’t sure. “There was a discussion and acceptance,” she wrote, and the situation “will be rectified.”
Asked about Reznicek’s statement that the policy had not yet been approved, Blanford-Green said, “You spoke with a board member and they have provided you with the answer. I don’t think an additional comment from me on a board member’s response is necessary.”
The other seven NSAA board members did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Blanford-Green was an 11-time All-American sprinter and hurdler at the University of Nebraska in the early 1980s. She left her job as associate commissioner of Colorado’s High School Activities Association, where she helped craft a similar policy in 2009, to take the top job in Nebraska last July.
Meanwhile, as awareness of the policy has spread in Nebraska, so has opposition. Al Riskowski, executive director of the Nebraska Family Council, said his group would oppose such a policy.
“I think parents should be involved in this type of a decision,” he said. “We certainly would hope that the board would open up public comment in regard to such a controversial policy.”
If a transgendered girl is allowed to participate on a girls’ team, that could be an unfair advantage and “becomes problematic when it comes to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers,” Riskowski said.
“Do we want little girls or young women exposed to a boy in their locker room shower?” he said. “If you’re going to change such a policy, parents should really be involved with such a shift. There’s a lot of parents who are going to care very deeply.”
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