Nebraska’s body governing school athletics has failed to overturn a policy that will recognize gender identity rather than biological sex as a standard for student athletes, and last week the state’s bishops said they “deeply regret” the situation.

“Recognizing the truth about each person’s biological sex, and basing policies upon that fundamental truth, would serve the best interest of Nebraska’s students, families and schools,” they said April 8.

The bishops said that the Catholic member schools of the association will continue to urge it to rescind the policy, and will “require that students participate in NSAA activities according to their sex at birth.”

“Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being.  Such support, however, must be provided with due consideration to fairness; the safety, privacy, and rights of all students; and the truth about the human person.”

The Nebraska School Activities Association’s board of directors in January voted to create a process for students who identify as transgender to take part in sports based on their chosen gender.

This differed from the association’s membership, which in district meetings had voted to continue to require athlete participation to be based on the sex of a student’s birth certificate. Four of the six districts had voted in favor of the 'sex at birth' policy.

The NSAA representative assembly on April 8 voted against a proposal to reinstate the policy by a vote of 27-23.

The bishops commented that “the failure of the delegates’ vote to reflect the position of the majority of member schools — including public schools — expressed at the January district meetings is contrary to what one would expect of a 'member-driven organization.'”

In January the activities association’s interim director, Jim Tenopir, said the new policy allows religious schools to follow their beliefs. The policy also puts the burden of legal defense on the schools, not the association.

If a school decides a self-identified transgender student is eligible to play, the association’s gender-eligibility committee would rule on the case based on documentation about the student’s gender expression from a health care professional and from friends, teachers, or family.

Male students who say they are female must document a year of hormone therapy, a requirement intended to address concerns that men are physically larger than women. Self-identified transgender students must use private bathrooms and locker rooms, or those that match their biological sex.

Previous association policy allowed girls to wrestle or play football because there is no comparable girls’ sports.