Despite Gov. Noem’s two executive orders, SDHSAA policy remains in place for now

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For the South Dakota High School Activities Association, nothing has changed from the defeat of House Bill 1217 Monday and then the announcement of Governor Kristi Noem’s executive orders on protecting “fairness in girls’ and women’s sports.” 

Gov. Noem’s two orders direct the State Department of Education and the Board of Regents to enforce rules allowing only females based on their biological sex at birth, to participate in girls and women’s sports. The move would stop transgender girls from participating in girls sports in South Dakota. 

To date, South Dakota has only had one case and it went through the current SDHSAA policy: a case-by-case look at each situation and to provide a level playing field in “safe, competitive and friendly environment, free of discrimination.” 

On Tuesday, SDHSAA Executive Director Dr. Daniel Swartos said the SDHSAA was not involved in the crafting of Gov. Noem’s executive orders. Dr. Swartos issued the statement below, noting the executive orders do not tell the SDHSAA to do anything with its current policy directly. 

“The SDHSAA is aware of the Executive Order issued yesterday by Governor Noem. As written, the Executive Order does not task the SDHSAA with anything. We would be happy to work with our member schools and/or the South Dakota Department of Education as appropriate on this matter,” Swartos said in a statement. “In the interim, we are focused on our Spring Sports and Fine Arts events and are thankful for the opportunity to allow kids to compete and perform throughout this unprecedented year.”

The first order calls for the state Department of Education to issue a policy stating that only females based on their biological sex at birth “shall participate” in girls’ sports sanctioned by a school, school district or association. Dr. Swartos said the SDHSAA will “will work with the SDDOE as they put guidance out to school regarding the Executive Order.”

The second-order says the state Board of Regents, whose members Gov. Noem appoints to oversee South Dakota’s six public universities, should take “any and all steps necessary” to see that only females based on their biological sex at birth “should participate” in any girls’ or women’s athletic event that regents sanction.

The South Dakota Board of Regents, Executive Director Brian Maher and staff are working to understand what the orders will do. 

You can see the statement from Director of Communications Janelle Toman below: 

“We received the Governor’s executive orders when they were released publicly after the close of Veto Day on Monday. The Regents, Executive Director Maher, and staff are currently reviewing this order and understanding its impacts. We strive to comply with all applicable regulatory authority, while concurrently promoting and enhancing opportunities for our next generation of student-athletes.  We expect more details on this topic to emerge during an upcoming legislative session, and we will continue to monitor the situation and make any necessary adjustments as we prepare for the next season of competitive sports activity.”

According to the South Dakota Secretary of State, executive orders as issued by the Governor are not laws, but do have the same binding nature. Executive orders are usually based on existing constitutional or statutory powers of the Governor.

Gov. Noem said the executive orders were meant to be temporary until a special legislative session, in late May or June, would further address “this important issue, as well as others.”

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