Following an injury to a female player at a high school volleyball game last month caused by a biologically male athlete, a school board in North Carolina has blocked further games with a school, citing student safety concerns.
During a tournament, a Hiwassee Dam High School student was hit in the face with the ball, sent over the net by a Highlands High School student.
According to the Education First Alliance, the Hiwassee student, a biological girl, received severe head and neck injuries as a result of the incident, which has given the player long-term concussion symptoms, including problems with her vision.
The girl has yet to be cleared for play by her physician or a neurologist.
In a 5-1 vote, the Cherokee County Board of Education canceled all remaining games against Highlands High due to the injury, and declared it a "safety issue."
Education First Alliance wrote that "The perspective of a longtime coach swayed Cherokee Board Member Joe Wood."
"I’ll never put a child in a position to be seriously injured," Wood said. "I think the odds (of injury) in these non-contact sports aren’t high. But in particular, in this meeting, a coach of 40 years said they’d never seen a hit like this. That was really what sealed the decision, at least on my part."
The coach noted that they had "never seen a hit like this before."
"The competitive advantage issue certainly has to come up in any scenario with that type of transgender conversion, per se," said Board Vice Chair Jeff Martin. "I can tell you that the board wasn’t searching out this kind of thing. It was brought to our attention based on safety concerns."
Speaking in regards to the transgender student, board member Jeff Tatham said, "The biggest thing for us, especially after seeing the video of the injury, we felt very strongly that it was a safety concern. I think most of the board members also felt like there’s a competitive advantage issue."
According to the Cherokee Scout, both Tatham and Martin said that the majority of board members felt the biological male athlete presents a "competitive advantage issue."
Cherokee County Schools Superintendent Jeana Conly said that "We did have a student who, in a prior competition with (Highlands), has received a concussion and has had to have several neurology visits, and their medical journey is not over yet."
"So, that kind of spawned discussions about safety with the board. It was important to school board members, specifically Jeff Tatham and James Ellis, and Dr. Jeff Martin, that the board be the one to take the decision off the shoulders of the schools – even though some students at a couple of the schools were really adamant that they wanted to play, and the coaches at Murphy were adamant that they wanted to play," she added.
Describing the incident, Tatham said that he was told the ball was traveling at an estimated 70 mph.
"I don’t know if that’s faster than normal, but it seemed like it was coming off very fast, abnormally, especially fast. It not only hit her in the face, then the ball came off of her face with enough force to then go back through the net."
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