click to enlarge Updated at 1:57 p.m.
- Nikolay Mamluke | Dreamstime
- A school gym
A religious school in Quechee that refused to play a girls' basketball game against a team with a trans athlete has been ousted from mainstream high school sports in the state.
The Vermont Principals' Association, which governs school sports, told Mid Vermont Christian School in a letter on Monday that the small private school is no longer eligible to compete in the organization's events, including annual state tournaments.
In so doing, the VPA cited comments head of school Vicky Fogg made to the Valley News
following Mid Vermont Christian's decision to forfeit a game in last month's Division IV state tournament. Fogg said in an email to the newspaper that "we believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players.”
The forfeiture and expressed rationale violated the VPA's policies around nondiscrimination, which it said are aligned with state law barring discrimination in public accommodations based on someone's gender identity.
Mid Vermont Christian was created in 1987 by a group of parents who believed that God told them to start a school, according to its website. It espouses a "Christ-centered" education with classes taught through its interpretation of a "biblical worldview." The school publishes a "notice" professing not to discriminate based on gender "in administration of its educational, admissions, financial aid programs, and other school administered programs."
But, as the Valley News also reported
, the school is one of at least two religious schools testing a state law that requires private schools to follow the state's antidiscrimination law in order to receive public money through Vermont's tuition program for rural families. Fogg, in a January letter to the State Board of Education, declined to "affirm" aspects of Vermont law that "conflict with any of the school’s beliefs, including on marriage and sexuality,” according to the Valley News.
The State Board of Education voted on February 1 to approve the school's application for public tuition dollars on the condition that, by its March meeting, "the school comes into compliance" with the rule requiring affirmation of compliance with the Vermont Public Accommodations Act.
"If the school does not provide such an assurance by the deadline, the State Board would make a finding that the condition has not been met, and the
school would not be approved," draft meeting minutes state.
Mid Vermont Christian, which has 114 students in grades pre-K through 12, expressed disappointment in a statement on Tuesday.
"We intend to appeal the decision," said a statement attributed to Fogg. "Cancelling our membership is not a solution and does nothing to deal with the very real issue of safety and fairness facing women's sports in our beloved state. We urge the VPA to reconsider its policies, and balance the rights of every athlete in the state."
An Agency of Education spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision to boot the school from the VPA was made by the organizing body's executive council, according to a press release.
"The VPA again reiterates its ongoing support of transgender student-athletes as not only a part of building an inclusive community for each student to grow and thrive, but also as a clear expectation by Vermont state law," the organization said in a press release.