I sense an inconsistency in Governor Kristi Noem’s approach to school sports.
In her ballyhooed homeschool anarchy act (Senate Bill 177), Governor Noem authorizes parents to keep their kids home for education without presenting a birth certificate to the school district charged with ensuring equal education for all. Children homeschooled from kindergarten could thus go undocumented throughout their K-12 career. But Noem’s SB 177 opens the door for those undocumented children to participate in any school activities.
SB 177 holds those homeschool extracurricular participants “to the same local training rules and South Dakota High School Activities Association transfer and non-academic eligibility rules as enrolled students.” Academic eligibility rules seem deliberately left out. The student in the regular public school classroom has to keep her grades up to play basketball; an athlete who struggles to pass algebra could switch to homeschool and never face the prospect of missing play time because of bad homework or tests.
SB 177 even opens the door for the academically struggling athlete to switch to homeschool in the middle of the school year and remain eligible for the next sport season. Under current law, a student switching to alternative instruction must sit out for a full year; SB 177 allows an academically struggling star athlete to switch to homeschool in October, miss the remainder of the volleyball season, then suit up to practice and play basketball right away in November.
Yet while homeschool students are given this new freedom to compete in school sports without documentation of their birth or their academic progress, some transgender athletes are banned from the courts of their choosing. House Bill 1217, which bully Noem said she is excited to sign, bans transgender females from competing in female team sports. (Transgender males remain welcome to participate on male teams, which invites a whole nother analysis of double standardization in our Executive and Legislative branches.) Transgender women must adhere to the the sex declared on their birth certificates. Transgender women who dare compete with women will subject their schools and sports organizations to all sorts of lawsuits.
The selfish double standard here is clear: Governor Noem favors homeschoolers, because lots of them believe in her personal Jesus and help her wage war against the great and necessary liberal (i.e., liberating) institution of public education. Governor Noem punishes transgender South Dakotans, because they don’t think like her; they represent a different, more inclusive South Dakota that runs against her vision of a theocratic Whitopia.