High school students & parents fight to keep transgender tennis coach

Students playing tennis.

Parents and students in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania have successfully fought to keep their school’s tennis coach, who is transgender, after multiple attempts were made to terminate her contract.

Sasha Yates, the coach for the boys and girls tennis teams at Gettysburg Area High School, came out as transgender in 2021.

This year, the Gettysburg Area School District has met on a number of occasions to discuss whether or not Yates’ contract should be renewed.

Pushing for Yates’ dismissal is school board member Michelle Smyers, who is also the chair of her local chapter of the SPLC-designated hate group, Moms for Liberty.

She and some other board members have pushed for Yates’ termination on multiple occasions, particularly after school administrators received complaints in 2022 that Yates had used the girl’s locker room at the same time as students.

Speaking to local media outlet PennLive, Yates confirmed that the allegations had been made, but said that she thought all concerns had been resolved with administrators, with a resolution that coaches would only use single-occupancy changing rooms.

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Rainbow flag and Trans flag on a flagpole in front of office buildings
Community members stood up for transgender tennis coach Sasha Yates. (Getty Images)

After Yates ironed out the issue with administrators, her contract was renewed for the spring tennis season, at the recommendation of both the high school’s principal and athletic director, LGBTQ Nation reports.

Despite this, the school board met once again last week to vote on the renewal of her contract. The board provided very little information as to why Yates’ contract was once again under scrutiny, but a number of members denied that it had anything to do with the coach’s gender identity.

That’s despite Smyers’ blatant issues with transgender people, as documented on her social media and in interviews with right-wing media outlets.

Smyers is represented by America First Legal, which released a statement last month to say it was working to “protect students from the insidious transgender movement.”

Despite Smyers’ attempts, concerned parents, students, and other community members joined last week’s hearing in droves to stand up for Yates.

Of the 30 speakers who addressed the school board on Tuesday night, 26 spoke in favour of renewing the coach’s contract.

Tristan Smith, the captain of the school’s boys’ tennis team told the board: “The issue of Coach Sasha simply changing her attire in the girls’ locker room was promptly resolved.

“There is no validity to the disgusting claims I’ve heard about my coach.”

Alleging that other rumours about Yates within the community wouldn’t have been spread if she was cisgender, Smith added: “I cannot stand here and refuse to acknowledge that blatant transphobia is the main motivation behind this commotion.”

Lance Windish, a parent in the district, told the board that he had “yet to hear any legitimate reason for not renewing Ms. Yates’ contract.”

He continued: “What I have heard is testimonials of people whose lives she has touched and changed and strengthened as an educator.”

Meanwhile, a member of the school’s girls tennis team, Molly Heaton, pointed out that Smyers had “used her platform to attack the trans community even before there was any question about the conduct of Coach Yates.”

After everyone had said their piece, the board voted 6-2 in favour of renewing Yates’ contract.

Yates told PennLive that she was “extremely delighted” at the results of the vote, and looked forward to getting back to work.

​​“I have been very moved by the outpouring of support that I have received,” she said.

“I am very much looking forward to continuing to support and guide both teams as they represent Gettysburg Area High School in the coming seasons.”

Board president Kenneth Hassinger said that delays on the renewal of Yates’ contract were a result of “widespread rumors that were going on in the public and we wanted to take a deep breath and make sure we had all the information before we took a vote.”

He told PennLive: “We were able to go back and look and see if rumors and other stuff if there was any factual basis behind it – and I think you saw the vote tonight would tell you that the majority of those rumors did not have a factual basis to them.”