Education Dept: Conn. transgender athletic policy violates girls' rights, may lose federal funding

Selina Soule
Selina Soule | Alliance Defending Freedom

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has sided with three female athletes in Connecticut who are suing the state's athletic association over its policy of allowing trans-identified males to compete in girls' sports.

On May 15, the Department of Education's office of civil rights sent a 45-page letter to several public school districts and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference in response to a previous complaint filed with the agency. The DOE might now seek to deny federal dollars to the state over its policy because it's a violation of Title IX — the civil rights statute that guarantees equal opportunities for females in the educational arena, including in high school sports.

Connecticut's policy has “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits,” the letter reads.

The letter also noted that earlier this year the DOE civil rights office notified the CIAC and the school districts of its pending decision but that the negotiations that followed failed to yield a workable agreement.

In response, the CIAC doubled down on its stance, insisting that males who identify as female must be allowed to participate in girls' sports as though they are biologically female.

“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports,” the state athletic conference said in a statement.

“To do otherwise would not only be discriminatory but would deprive high school students of the meaningful opportunity to participate in educational activities, including inter-scholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law.”

Although the DOE decision is not binding on the federal court overseeing the lawsuit brought by Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell — three Connecticut high school track athletes who have taken legal action against the CIAC over its policy — the attorneys for the girls welcomed the announcement.

“Around the nation, districts are going to want to be reading this, because it does have legal implications,” said Roger Brooks, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, who is representing the girls.

“It is a first decision from the agency charged with enforcing Title IX addressing the question of whether males on the playing field or on the track are depriving girls of opportunities consistent with Title IX.”

The high school track athletes have long maintained that competing against biological boys, regardless of transgender status and hormone use, is fundamentally unfair given the numerous physiological advantages that male puberty confers, and that their efforts are aimed at restoring fairness to their sport.

Their lawsuit specifically notes that two transgender-identifying male sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, have frequently surpassed them in races and they have won many championship races since 2017, denying the girls' titles and scholarship opportunities. 

Earlier this month, the ADF lawyers motioned that the federal judge presiding over the case, Robert Chatigny of the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, be disqualified. They maintained that he cannot adjudicate the matter impartially in light of an April 16 conference call in which he ordered them not to use the word "males" when addressing male athletes who identify as female, insisting they be called "transgender females."

ADF and other like-minded critics of transgender ideology have argued that to concede the language is to concede the entire case because their arguments cannot be accurately expressed using terms that do not convey the distinctly biological basis on which the lawsuit rests.

“Girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sports,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb, who is also representing the girls, in a statement on Thursday.

“We’re encouraged that the Department of Education has officially clarified that allowing males to compete in the female category isn’t fair, destroys girls’ athletic opportunities, and clearly violates federal law. Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls — that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. In light of the department’s letter, we’re asking Connecticut schools and the CIAC to update their problematic policies and comply with federal law.”

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest backing the girls.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalterFollow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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