West Virginia judge rules students who protested trans inclusion in girls track and field cannot be punished for protest


On Thursday, a West Virginia judge ruled in favor of four middle school girls who refused to compete against a transgender athlete during the Harrison County District track and field championships. The teen girls protested by purposefully scratching during the shot put competition, which resulted in school officials allegedly banning them from competing in future competitions.

However, Harrison County Judge Thomas Bedell ruled that the girls could not be banned for protesting and granted them a temporary injunction, per WBOY-TV.

The four Lincoln Middle School girls said they were prohibited from competing and were subjected to punishments after participating in a silent protest on April 18 against Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender biological male student-athlete from Bridgeport Middle School. Pepper-Jackson won the competition in a landslide defeat.

“Even though there was no malice found on either part of the defendants, the plaintiffs have met their burden and the temporary injunction has been granted,” said Judge Bedell.

The board of education denied that the girls were subjected to retaliation, arguing that an official school policy forbids any player who “scratches” in an event from competing at the next competition.

“This neutral, school-specific rule was in place before the students’ protests and has nothing to do with those protests in any way,” the board wrote in a statement following the ruling, the Washington Times reported. “Other than not being permitted to participate in the same event in which they scratched at the next track meet, the students have competed in track meets and events following their protests without restriction.”

The scratch rule was unknown to two of the girls, according to their testimony. Additionally, they testified that they were subjected to “Indian runs,” which are also referred to as interval sprints, during the next practice as a means of retaliation.

Their protest occurred two days after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the state’s 2021 law, which mandated that school athletes participated in competition based on biological sex rather than gender identity, unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a challenge on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson.

The outcome of the lawsuit against the Harrison County Board of Education was perceived as a victory for safeguarding women’s sports, although a final injunction decision will be rendered at a later hearing.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who filed an amicus brief in support of the middle school girls, said he has these students’ backs.

“You saw unfairness and you expressed your disappointment and sacrificed your personal performances in a sport that you love; exercised your constitutionally protected freedom of speech and expression. These girls didn’t disrupt anything when they protested. They should be commended, not punished,” wrote Morrisey in a statement.

Morrisey also vowed to take the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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