West Virginia Middle School Students Banned for Protesting Trans Athlete

West Virginia Middle School Students Banned for Protesting Trans Athlete

Five West Virginia middle school students who protested a trans athlete’s participation in a shot put competition have been banned from future competitions.

Becky Pepper-Jackson, 13, competed in the Harris County Middle School Track and Field Championship on April 18, two days after a federal appeals court ruled West Virginia’s transgender sports ban violates the teen’s right under Title IX.

West Virginia Middle School Students Banned for Protesting Trans Athlete

Five girls from Lincoln Middle School stepped up to the circle for their turn, then refused to throw the ball.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed a lawsuit against the Harrison County Board of Education on the student’s behalf after they were banned from future events.

‘I will do everything in my power to defend these brave young girls. This is just wrong. We must stand for what’s right and oppose these radical trans policies,’ Morrisey said on Monday.

The Attorney General posted his tweet in response to Women’s rights activist and former college swimmer Riley Gaines, who has stood by female athletes who have refused to compete against transgender athletes.

‘These girls stood up for what they believed and their coach barred them from competing. Insane,’ Gaines said.

‘It’s dangerous to teach young girls to ignore the threats their eyes and ears are warning them of. How do some call this “progress”?’

It’s unclear why the school or district banned the girls from future events for their recent protest that saw them walk up to the box to throw the shot put before leaving without a toss.

On Wednesday, Gaines posted a video of one of the five athletes that was involved in the protest speaking at a press conference about the incident.

The teen said: ‘Luckily, I found four lovely young girls willing to take a stand with me.’

‘We hope that it opens eyes to many more to see that this is not right and the situation is eventually going to kill women’s sports forever,’ she added.

After the competition, Pepper-Jackson took home first place in the shot put competition with her 32-foot effort, three feet further than second place, and she placed second in discus.

Despite being legally allowed to compete, the five athletes protested Pepper-Jackson’s participation by refusing to play against her.

Gaines previously tweeted a video of the protest and said ‘It’s a sad day when 13-14 year old girls have to be the adults in the room, but I couldn’t be more inspired by and proud of these girls.’

Pepper-Jackson won her years-long struggle to compete in sports after West Virginia Governor Jim Justice banned transgender athletes from competing in middle school, high school and college in May 2021.

On April 16, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban cannot be applied to the 13-year-old.

The court previously blocked the state’s attempt to kick the teen from her middle school cross-country and track and field teams in February 2023.

The decision does not overturn the ban as it applies only to Pepper-Jackson’s case – but the law could be in limbo if other transgender student athletes choose to challenge it.

The court noted that Pepper-Jackson has lived as a girl for more than five years. She began identifying as female in the third grade and has participated strictly on girls’ sports teams.

In addition to taking puberty blockers and estrogen hormone therapy, Pepper-Jackson has legally changed her name, and the state of West Virginia has issued her a birth certificate listing her as female.

Offering the teen a ‘choice’ between not participating in sports and participating only on boys’ teams ‘is no real choice at all,’ Judge Toby Heytens wrote in the ruling.

‘The defendants cannot expect that B.P.J. will countermand her social transition, her medical treatment, and all the work she has done with her schools, teachers, and coaches for nearly half her life by introducing herself to teammates, coaches, and even opponents as a boy,’ Heytens wrote.

In a statement, ACLU West Virginia attorney Josh Block deemed the ruling a ‘tremendous victory.’

Morrisey thought otherwise and said that he was ‘deeply disappointed’ and vowed to continue fighting to safeguard Title IX.

‘The law was passed more than five decades ago and was meant to address sex discrimination in education by ensuring that women had equal opportunities to participate in federally-funded programs.’

‘We must keep working to protect women’s sports so that women’s safety is secured and girls have a truly fair playing field,’ Morrisey said on Tuesday. ‘We know the law is correct and will use every available tool to defend it.’

In the ruling, the appeals court reaffirmed that government officials had the authority to establish separate sports teams for boys and girls and can enforce the line between them.

‘We also do not hold that Title IX requires schools to allow every transgender girl to play on girls teams, regardless of whether they have gone through puberty and experienced elevated levels of circulating testosterone,’ the court proclaimed.

‘We hold only that the district court erred in granting these defendants’ motions for summary judgment in this particular case and in failing to grant summary judgment to B.P.J. on her specific Title IX claim.’

In a dissenting opinion, Judge G. Steven Agee wrote that the state can separate teams by gender assigned at birth ‘without running afoul of either the Equal Protection Clause or Title IX.’

West Virginia is among the 24 states barring transgender women and girls from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity.

Pepper-Jackson told NBC News in October that she would not give up on her fight to compete in girl’s sports.

‘I want to keep going because this is something I love to do, and I’m not just going to give it up,’ she said. ‘This is something I truly love, and I’m not going to give up for anything.’

Her mother, Heather Pepper-Jackson, said, ‘She likes to do the best in everything, be it algebra or running or shot put or discus.’

‘She tries to excel in everything that she does, just like any other kid… if she didn’t start the fight, who’s going to?’

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