Transgender students will be permitted to participate in sports according to their gender identity and no longer will need to "prove" their gender identity through medical consultation, based on a change to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's policy announced Wednesday.

"That's the biggest change," association counsel Steve Goodell said after the organization's monthly meeting at its headquarters in Robbinsville.

The association  decided to update its policy, effective immediately,  to comply with a recently enacted state law and to respond to requests from the transgender community, Goodell said.

"The last year or so, we've received requests from the transgender community," Goodell said. "They didn't like the idea of a student having to 'prove' their transgender status.

"They made a convincing case, and I've done some research on my own as well. I don't think you're going to see somebody using this to 'game' the system."

The new policy enforces a state law that was enacted in July that permits a transgender student to participate in gender-segregated school activities in accordance with the student's gender identity.

Goodell noted one aspect of the policy: member schools will be eligible to appeal to the NJSIAA's Eligibility Appeals Committee when they believe a student's participation in athletics would adversely impact competitive fairness or safety.
Those hearings would be confidential, Goodell said.

Student athletes can participate according to their birth sex or gender identity, but not both, he said.

"NJSIAA has a duty to address major issues impacting the student athletes we represent," association executive director Steve Timko said.

In another policy change, the association announced that schools will be permitted to use drones at practices and home events during the regular season, in accordance with local, state, and federal law.

The use of dones during state tournament events still is prohibited.

Visiting teams can use drones when given permission by home teams, Goodell said.

The policy requires that schools that use drones to record games must share the video with other schools "as soon as is reasonably possible," Goodell said.

Several schools have asked about using drones, he said.

"We think it's time," Goodell said. "We'll see how this goes and adjust our policy from there."