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Former high school track and field coach John Parks talks firing amid push for transgender athlete law change

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John Parks, a track and field coach in Oregon, said the school district overseeing Lake Oswego High School fired him earlier this month after he sent a letter to state officials concerning laws related to transgender athletes.

Parks recently made an appearance on OutKick’s “Gaines for Girls” podcast, which is hosted by former collegiate swimmer, Riley Gaines.

Parks said the moments leading up to the women’s 400-meter event were filled with high levels of stress for the athletes he coached and their parents. A biological male runner, who identified as a female, competed in the race.

“It caused great distress to them in the lead up to it,” Parks told Gaines, an OutKick contributor and the director of the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute. “Their parents were very concerned and had issues with…. but they [were] afraid to speak out in any way… they very much want to support all students and transgender students in every way. But, they just felt like it was putting them under an unfair stress to have to race in this kind of conditions where this trans athlete [had] just recently transitioned [and] was a bodybuilder before.”

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Parks previously told KATU that he addressed two letters to a high-ranking official with the Oregon Student Activities Association.

He also sent letters to state Sen. Rob Wagner, including one last month after Oregon’s state championships. In the letters, Parks argued that the state’s laws, as currently constructed, do a disservice to girls’ sports.

Parks appeared to reference the International Olympic Committee’s hormone testing mandates. The requirements for hormone testing vary across different sports leagues, committees and organizations.

“The OSAA competition rules need to be aligned with what the rest of the world competes under,” Parks wrote in the letter addressed to Wagner. “My proposal to encourage transgender participation is to offer an open division that is so named so it doesn’t identify or discriminate but offers an opportunity to participate.”

Oregon Sports Graphic

Parks also offered details of the events that happened after he wrote the letter.

“After the letter was sent – I sent it on a Sunday night late… on Tuesday I see my athletic director in the hallway just passing, and he says the lady at the state, Kelly Foster, she received your letter, and she agrees with you, but she cannot respond.”

While Parks raised concerns over laws that offer protection for athletes who seek to compete against the gender they personally identify with, he also said he is not calling for the complete exclusion of transgender athletes. 

“All I was advocating for…. [was] an open division that would allow competition so that the fans could cheer the transgender athletes separately and recognize and reward their efforts,” Parks told Gaines. “But not take away from the female athletes that were naturally born females that are in a whole different competition level.”

A genera shot of a runner

Parks recalled watching fans at the state championship direct their displeasure toward a transgender athlete who participated in a girls’ event.

“I want them to be able to participate where they’re not booed,” Parks said.

Earlier this month, a Lake Oswego School District spokesperson confirmed that Parks was no longer employed by the district. The school district stopped short of going into the circumstances surrounding Parks’ separation. 

“We do not discuss personnel matters,” Mary Kay Larson, director of communications at Lake Oswego School District, said in a statement.

Parks plans to appeal his termination.

“I’m going to fight now because I got wronged,” he told the news station. “I… am fighting for girls, I’m fighting for female sports, and I’m fighting that it be fair for everybody.”

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