Citing safety and fairness, North Carolina school board votes to forfeit future volleyball games against rival after trans opponent injures female player

A North Carolina female volleyball player suffered head and neck injuries during a game when a transgender opponent spiked the ball, hitting the player in the head.  

Not long after, the Cherokee County Board of Education decided in a 5-1 vote that all its district high schools would forfeit regular season girls’ volleyball matches against Highlands School, where the transgender player competes, according to a report by Fox News. 

“The county will not participate in any volleyball games, varsity or junior varsity, against Highlands due to safety concerns,” the board decided after public comments, according to the publicly released minutes from the Sept. 21 meeting. 

The injured player, a female athlete from Hiwassee Dam High School, reportedly suffered severe head and neck injuries, continues to experience long-term concussion symptoms, and has not yet been cleared to play, according to the report. Video of the incident has circulated social media.

During public comments at the board meeting, Principal Lance Bristol of Andrews High School informed the board that his own school’s decision not to compete against Highlands came after feedback from parents and students who questioned the “safety and fairness” of their female athletes playing against the biological male who had already injured one competitor.  

David Payne, Athletic Director of Hiwassee Dam, told the board his players and their parents had, “mixed feelings about participating in future games against Highlands.” He also said that a “statement needed to be made” and that it’s “unfair and unsafe,” the minutes show. 

“The biggest thing for us, especially after seeing the video of the injury, we felt very strongly that it was a safety concern,” board member Jeff Tatham said, according to The Daily Mail. “I think most of the board members also felt like there’s a competitive advantage issue.” 

“There is a competitive advantage and a safety concern for certain teams — it’s not the same for all teams,” Vice Chair Jeff Martin reportedly added. “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.”  

Jason Murphy, a concerned citizen in attendance, urged the board to vote this issue based on their “morals, ethics and Christian upbringing.” 

Kesha Curtis, the lone board member who voted against the motion, said she, “believes all school principals and ADs should make that decision,” not the board on their behalf, according to the minutes. 

The issue of fairness around biological males competing in female sports took center stage earlier this year when transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, placed on the podium in collegiate events and was later nominated for the NCAA’s 2022 “Woman of the Year” award. 

As reported previously on The Lion, current and former female athletes felt the nomination was unfair.   

“Not enough fabulous biological women athletes, NCAA?!? What is wrong with you?!!!!!!!?” legendary women’s tennis star Martina Navratilova tweeted, in response Thomas’ nomination.  

In March, Navratilova called NCAA rules allowing trans women to compete unfair, adding that Thomas should have an asterisk by her name when she wins women’s races.

Riley Gaines, the University of Kentucky’s nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year, called Thomas’ nomination a “slap in the face to women” on Twitter.  

“[T]his is yet another slap in the face to women. First a female national title and now nominated for the pinnacle award in collegiate athletics. The NCAA has made this award worthless,” Gaines’ tweet read.  

Shortly after news of Thomas’ nomination, Reuters reported that a federal judge blocked a Biden administration directive that would have allowed transgender athletes to join sports teams corresponding with their chosen genders, as well as allow transgender workers and students to use school restrooms matching their gender identities.  

The directive was blocked by Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee after 20 Republican attorneys general sued last year.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who was among the plaintiffs, called the judge’s decision “a major victory for women’s sports and for the privacy and safety of girls and women in their school bathrooms and locker rooms.”