New ruling reveals fate of middle school girls banned for protesting trans competitor


Five West Virginia middle school girls banned from participating in track and field meets after they protested against a trans athlete last week are allowed to compete again, a judge ruled Thursday night.

Judge Thomas A. Bedell issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the Harrison Board of Education and its schools from penalizing student-athletes for their speech. 

The school board denied allegations of retaliation against the students, and instead asserted the students were allowed to protest without hindrance and with full awareness and permission from coaches and the principal.

“Those students, like all of the other students on the team, however, were subject to a team rule that any player who scratches in an event cannot participate in that event at the next track meet,” the board said in a statement. “This neutral, school-specific rule was in place before the students’ protests and has nothing to do with those protests in any way. Other than not being permitted to participate in the same event in which they scratched at the next track meet, the students have competed in track meets and events following their protests without restriction.”

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blurred-face photo of trans athlete Becky Pepper Jackson standing on track

Becky Pepper Jackson, a trans athlete in West Virginia (ACLU)

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed an amicus brief this week in support of the plaintiffs and praised the judge’s decision. 

“These girls didn’t disrupt anything when they protested. They should be commended, not punished,” Morrisey said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “We need to teach them that it is noble to stand firm in their beliefs and address their grievances within the protections guaranteed by our Constitution.
 
“They need not be silent,” he added. “They have won by having their voices heard. So glad we were able to weigh in on behalf of these courageous young girls and that they are able to play.”

Last week, the middle school girls were barred from competing in a shot put track and field event after protesting a court’s ruling to block enforcement of the state’s “Save Women’s Sports Act,” according to the West Virginia Attorney General’s office.

The state law prohibited transgender girls from competing against biological girls in sports. But, in a 2-1 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the law violated Title IX, siding with the American Civil Liberties Union, its West Virginia chapter and Lambda Legal.

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Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia's Republican attorney general

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. (Kenny Kemp/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)

Last month, a 2-1 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the state’s Save Women’s Sports Act, first signed in 2021. The court said the law cannot lawfully be applied to a middle school-aged trans girl who has been taking puberty-blocking medication and has publicly identified as a girl since the third grade.

In 2021, after the law went into effect, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of 12-year-old transgender athlete Becky Pepper Jackson (B.P.J), who would be kicked off the middle school’s track and field team under the new ban. Jackson’s lawyers argued the law violated the 14th Amendment and protections under Title IX.

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a judge's gavel

Middle school students protest against trans athlete in shot put event. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News via Getty Images)

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West Virginia is one of 24 states that has laws barring biological males from competing in girls’ sports.

Fox News Digital’s Ryan Morik contributed to this report. 



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