Highlands volleyball incident makes national news

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Head and neck injuries sustained by a Hiwasee Dam High School volleyball player Sept. 1, due to the spike by a transgender player, is receiving ongoing national attention from such media outlets as New York Post, Washington Examiner, and Turning Point USA. Because the kill shot resulted in significant injuries, Hiwasee Dam School chose to forfeit the Oct. 11 game to Highlands School.

On Oct. 20, “Athletic Business” reported that the Cherokee County school board voted to forfeit all matches for its schools’ women’s volleyball teams against Highlands School. The 5-1 vote led to board member Joe Wood commenting that he made his decision based on safety and not on the athlete’s sex.

A spectator at the September game filmed the game and posted the play on YouTube. The one-and-a half minute video shows the shot, taken by the Highlands School player, hitting the Hiwasee Dam player’s head, resulting in the Hiwasee player tumbling to the floor, unable to rise. The clip has garnered close to 19,000 views and 136 comments so far, including: “As an ex-college football athlete, I have seen many women’s volleyball games throughout my college career and to see this man come back 14 to 15 feet and elevate to the net like he does … should tell you to stay with the gender you were born with when it comes to sports!” “This is beyond unacceptable! The teenage boy and his family along with Highlands High should be responsible for her injuries.”

An Oct. 11, “Education First Alliance NC” article shared: “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also confirmed male dominance in the sport. The jump height and explosive power of males are significantly higher than those of females, according to scientists.”

After the decision by the Cherokee County School Board to forfeit all matches for its schools’ volleyball teams against Highlands School, David Payne, Hiwasee Dam High School’s athletic director, commented in an Oct. 22 New York Post article: “… a statement needed to be made … that it’s unfair and unsafe.”

The Post further noted, “Transgender athletes competing in women’s sports has become a controversial topic, especially after Lia Thomas, a biological man, won a NCAA championship in women’s swimming earlier this year.”

Although the incident that resulted in the Hiwasee Dam player’s injuries, from which she has not yet been cleared by physicians to resume playing, is just recently bringing national attention to Western North Carolina, the controversy over whether transgender males can play female sports is resulting in a myriad of states writing bills and passing legislation to protect biological female athletes.

In North Carolina, the N.C. High School Athletic Association makes provisions for student-athletes to compete based on gender identity. The NCHSAA handbook states, “When a student’s gender identity differs from the gender listed on the student’s certificate of birth, the Gender Identity Request Form must be submitted by the member school to the NCHSAA prior to any participation by the student under circumstances that would constitute ineligibility. The request should be based on the gender identification of that student in current school records and daily life activities in the school and community.”

(Athletic directors at both schools involved were contacted by telephone and email to comment directly for this article and did not respond.)

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