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Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc’s staff said her statement was based on complaints made to her office in 2021.
Dittrich provided two specific examples at the time, and both were found to be adults not competing in school sports.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in Wisconsin, does not keep statistics on the number of transgender athletes.
It’s unclear how many — if any — compete in Wisconsin K-12 sports.
During a public hearing on a bill that would ban transgender girls from competing in high school girls’ sports in Wisconsin, bill co-author Rep. Barbara Dittrich, R-Oconomowoc, was asked if she knew how many transgender athletes were competing in Wisconsin K-12 sports.
"I heard (there) were about a half a dozen of them," she responded during the Oct. 4 hearing. "Whether there are more than that, I do not know."
But the only thing that’s clear about the number of transgender athletes in Wisconsin is that the actual number is uncertain.
Let’s dive in.
In a series of email exchanges, Dittrich spokeswoman Meagan Matthews initially said the complaints were from "about six different teams." Matthews then said the complaints were from six individuals whose identities she kept confidential "to guard their privacy."
Matthews finally said Dittrich had heard six individuals connected to six different teams complain about their daughters having to compete against transgender athletes.
"Hope that’s clear enough for you," Matthews added.
But that just amounts to a restating of the claim.
Indeed, the number of trans athletes competing in Wisconsin youth sports is unclear. It could be more, it could be less.
The six complaints Dittrich cited during her testimony were from 2021, Matthews said in an email. Dittrich first cited such complaints after she introduced a previous version of her bill more than two years ago.
When asked if any of the six complaints about transgender athletes were specifically regarding high school sports, Matthews said Dittrich "doesn’t recall" and cited the two-year gap.
At the time, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked for examples of transgender athletes competing in Wisconsin that Dittrich was citing. Her office provided two unnamed athletes and their races, but a Journal Sentinel report from May 2021 found both athletes were adults who were not competing in school sports and would not be affected by the bills.
Officials with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association estimated in the Journal Sentinel report they had received a few dozen inquiries from schools about transgender athletes since the mid-2010s, of which four were about athletes seeking to transition to female.
A WIAA spokesperson told the Journal Sentinel in 2021 he couldn't recall a transgender athlete ever competing in a state tournament.
The WIAA’s Transgender Participation Policy says districts should contact the association if they have a student athlete participating in WIAA sport opposite their sex assigned at birth.
But Todd Clark, WIAA communications director, told us the WIAA has no way of confirming the number of trans athletes participating in interscholastic athletics in Wisconsin because it does not track notifications sent to its office.
He added that, according to staff, there were "very few" notifications sent to the office.
As for complaints, Clark said the WIAA has not received "true complaints" about transgender athletes, but has had a few calls to the office expressing concerns "more so about the policy and potential impact" of allowing transgender athletes to compete in the division that matches their gender.
The WIAA couldn’t speculate on whether the concerns were based on a specific athlete, he added.
We did our own search for any recent reports of transgender athletes. We found only one potential example of a transgender student competing in Wisconsin high school sports in Green Bay, though the instance was based on parent complaints.
Lori Blakeslee, director of communications and public relations for the Green Bay Area School District, said the district does not require students to identify themselves and is therefore unsure how many, if any, transgender athletes compete in school sports.
During a hearing on a bill that would ban transgender girls from competing in high school girls’ sports, Dittrich claimed there are "about a half a dozen" transgender athletes competing in Wisconsin K-12 schools.
The number she cited referenced complaints made to her office more than two years ago when the bill was originally introduced. But she only provided two specific examples at the time, and both were found to be adults not competing in school sports.
In the wake of the new claim, her office had no new specifics.
The WIAA has heard some concerns and "very few" notifications about transgender athletes. But the organization does not keep records of the number of transgender athletes, and it’s unclear from the concerns how many transgender athletes compete in Wisconsin high school sports.
Based on the information available to us now, and the lack of evidence from Dittrich, we rate this claim Mostly False.
Todd Clark, Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, emails, Oct. 6, 2023 and Oct. 13, 2023
Rep. Barbara Dittrich, committee hearing testimony recording, Oct. 4, 2023
Meagan Matthews, spokeswoman for Rep. Barbara Dittrich, emails, Oct. 4-9, 2023
Molly Beck and Tom Dombeck, Wisconsin transgender athletes face ban from women's sports under proposed bills, which would affect few, if any, sports officials say, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 11, 2021
Lori Blakeslee, Green Bay Area School District, email, Oct. 13, 2023
Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, Transgender Participation Policy
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