Editorial: Legislature, stay out of MSHSL decisions

Published 9:38 am Monday, December 22, 2014

During the recent debate on the Minnesota State High School League’s policy decision on transgender student-athletes, a chilling comment was made by a state lawmaker.

Here it is:

“This decision should be made at the state Capitol, not (MSHSL),” said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. His comment was reported in a St. Paul Pioneer Press story. Incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Joyce Peppin echoed that idea in separate comments.

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This is a bad idea. (And what a surprise to see Republicans calling for more government involvement.) But first let’s outline the facts about the MSHSL.

The MSHSL is a voluntary, nonprofit association of public and private schools, according to the organization’s website. In addition, the association “neither solicits or receives any state funding.”

The organization represents nearly 500 of the state’s public and private schools. The schools ask to be part of the organization.

The MSHSL acts as the governing body on deciding what class each school competes in for each sport and activity. Also, the league coordinates state tournaments and arranges for officials for high school events. The events range from dance teams to one-act plays to boys’ and girls’ hockey.

This organization appears to have the support of Minnesota schools and has done an exemplary job of running the high school tournament for decades.

So what business does the Legislature have in butting into its business?

Some lawmakers may want to pick the issues for which they get involved. But what might determine the reasons for that involvement? Do lawmakers want to help decide if dance team is an activity or a sport? Do they want to help draw the boundaries for tournament play?

Do they want to try to set the start of fall sports practices for after Labor Day to benefit the state’s important tourism industry? Goodness, they’ve had that power for school-year starts and look how inconsistent that’s been in recent years.

The MSHSL gets no direct state funding. It is a voluntary association. If schools object to policy decisions, they can withdraw.

But school officials, who have to deal with all the details of running and scheduling events for student-athletes, know they are the best people to make the decisions. The MSHSL board spent a great deal of time and effort studying the transgender policy.

That’s the way it should be. The MSHSL and the state extracurricular high school activities shouldn’t become another political football.

— St. Cloud Times, Dec. 14

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