WIAA releases list of proposed amendments ahead of Monday meeting

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released a list of 10 proposed amendments this week ahead of its Winter Coalition meeting on Monday, Jan. 25, including proposals to allow eighth graders to compete for 1A schools, and changes to the gender identity participation process.

The amendments, which were submitted by member schools and/or the WIAA Executive Board in 2020, will be discussed and finalized by the WIAA Representative Assembly during the governing body’s Winter Coalition virtual meeting on Jan. 25.

According to a press release from the WIAA, “after the amendments have been finalized at Winter Coalition, feedback forums will be made available on the WIAA website to encourage an informed discussion.”

A forum will be arranged to gather feedback from the public.

Voting on the proposed amendments will take place between April 29 and May 7.

The list includes several changes directly impacting local schools on the Twin Harbors, most notably allowing 1A schools to use eighth graders for baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball and any sport that is not offered by the student’s middle school (except football).

Furthermore, if changes are approved that would extend eighth grade participation for 2B schools to include non-WIAA member feeder middle schools, those changes would also apply for 1A schools.

Smaller schools on the Harbor often allow eighth graders to compete at the high school level to fill out rosters on both varsity and junior varsity teams.

Proponents of the amendment — which was submitted by Omak, Cascade, Cashmere, Chelan and Quincy high schools — state the changes would allow 1A schools to “increase participation and salvage athletic programs so sports seasons are not cancelled or games forfeited.” They also claim the passage of the amendment would help 1A schools offer more sports programs and establish junior varsity programs on a more consistent basis.

The language of the amendment mirrors that of the existing 2B rules that have previously been adopted by the WIAA.

Another proposal of note regards the language dictating the process of gender identity participation and ineligibility. The amendment, which was proposed by the WIAA Executive Board, amends the policies related to gender identity, specifically the eligibility and appeals process.

Currently, the WIAA Handbook states under rule 18.15.0 that, “Should any questions arise whether a student’s request to participate in a sex-segregated activity consistent with his or her gender identity is bona fide, a student may seek review of his or her eligibility for participation by working through the procedure set forth below.”

If a student’s eligibility is challenged, they would have the ability to litigate the issue further through and appeals process.

The amendment would remove this language from the handbook and place the issues of appeal on the school rather than the student.

The WIAA states in its rationale for the amendments that “The current appeal process allows a member school to question an individual student’s eligibility that has already been approved by the student’s school requiring that student to go before an appeal committee. This is inconsistent with how eligibility is handled.

“Once a student has been declared eligible by a school official, appeals of eligibility should be with the school, as a rule violation, rather than with the individual student.”

The WIAA Executive Board adds that the amendment would reduce barriers to participation and the potential for discrimination-based litigation.

The list of amendments can be found at https://wiaa.com/conDocs/Con443/2021%20Amendments%20for%20Distribution.pdf.

The proposed amendments are as follows:

■ Adds flag football, 7-on-7 football and sand volleyball to the sports that are considered to be separate and distinct from interscholastic sports.

■ A student is not varsity eligible if they transfer to a school after participating on a non-school team if one or more of the high school coaches were involved, and/or after receiving instruction or training, including weight training and conditioning, from a person affiliated with another school to which the student transfers.

■ Updates language in the WIAA handbook regarding appeals of eligibility regarding gender equity.

■ 1B and 2B high schools may utilize eighth graders from non-WIAA member middle schools.

■ With league approval 1A high schools may utilize eighth graders

■ Changes the definition of “regular” from no more than once to no more than once per week.

■ Adds a minimum of one hour in coaches standards for student mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion education.

■ High school basketball teams may participate in 20 games or 19 games plus one tournament for a total of up to 23 games. A WIAA foundation game or game against an international touring team will not count toward this total.

■ Eliminates the restriction of 20 days of coaching for summer football.

■ A two-day wrestling tournament consisting of brackets larger than 16 individuals will count as one of the 16 allowed team dates.