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Pennsylvania to re-think rule allowing students to play on opposite-gender sports teams

A court ruling that allowed girls to play on boys teams in Pennsylvania will reportedly be reconsidered this week, potentially paving the way for a ban on cross-gender play in the state.

Olivier Everts, a 15-year-old junior at Conestoga High School, has been the lead scorer on the girls' field hockey team for the past two seasons while donning the same uniform as his female counterparts, kilt included. Like hundreds of other student athletes across the state, Everts is able to compete thanks to a 1975 court decision that invalidated a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) rule that banned girls from playing on boys teams, Philly.com reports.

But PIAA officials are now deciding whether to revisit the issue, as the association joined a couple from Pittsburgh who asked a judge to overturn the 38-year-old ruling, citing the competitive imbalance boys were causing in their daughters' field hockey contests.

The association removed the previous rule banning cross-gender play from its bylaws in 1975, although individual schools can still ban the practice, PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz told the newspaper.

PIAA officials are also concerned with players' safety, as well as boys taking up girls' roster spots, Mertz said.

Judge P. Kevin Brobson declined to intervene. In his August ruling, Brobson said that if the PIAA wanted to ban boys from participating in girls sports and vice versa, it should establish a policy stating as much.

"Only then, if that policy is challenged in a court of law, may its constitutionality be evaluated," Brobson wrote.

PIAA officials had not decided how it would respond, Mertz said last week. Attorneys for the association are expected to discuss the matter with board members at a meeting this week. Mertz said officials are wary of establishing such a policy because it could lead to lawsuits alleging violation of the state's Equal Rights Amendment, the same amendment that was cited to strike down the previous PIAA policy.

"We're just very concerned over doing anything because we think we're going to be sued," she said.

While PIAA officials do not track instances of cross-gender play, a recent survey of 599 schools found widespread participation across gender lines. Thirty-eight schools, for example, reported boys playing on field hockey teams, and 14 said boys played on their girls lacrosse squads. More than 100 schools allowed girls to play on their high school football teams, the survey found, and 112 reported high schools had girls on wrestling teams, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, two boys playing on a girls’ volleyball team at a New York high school could see their playing time spiked when league officials consider modifying a rule that allows them to play with the fairer sex.

Seniors Andrew Lafortezza and Jason Elbaum both played for the co-ed volleyball club last season at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. But due to budgetary constraints, the Quakers were unable to field a boys’ team this year, prompting the teens to seek a spot on the girls’ squad, which they earned after receiving approval from league officials in August.

But New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas told FoxNews.com that the issue will be reconsidered by an ad hoc committee in early December.

“I’m very concerned with the fact that we have two boys playing on a girls’ team,” Zayas said. “I’m concerned there’s a significant adverse effect on other teams.”

Due to intense discussion about the configuration of the league, Zayas said officials will now determine whether the mixed competition rule needs to be modified.

“We want to encourage participation, but we also want to make sure we’re not doing it at the expense of other athletes,” Zayas continued. “When you look at mixed competition, was that the intent of the rule?”

FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.

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