In a 45-page letter dated May 15 and made public this week, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights found that a Connecticut public school policy permitting transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports violates federal civil rights protections for female athletes.
The policy, held by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and several Connecticut school districts, 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 states. The Education Department says such practices violate the provisions of Title IX in federal civil rights codes.
The OCR’s ruling was in response to several complaints filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of three female runners, Selina Soule, Alanna Smith and Chelsea Mitchell, who argued that biological male runners identifying as transgender had an unfair physical advantage in their female track events.
“Girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sports,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “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.”
The OCR letter gives the CIAC and six Connecticut public high schools until June 4 to bring their policies into alignment with Title IX. Failure to comply could result in a loss of federal funding or a referral of the case to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I am extremely happy and relieved to learn that OCR found the CIAC and the school districts violated Title IX,” Connecticut student Chelsea Mitchell, one of the athletes represented by ADF, said. “It feels like we are finally headed in the right direction, and that we will be able to get justice for the countless girls along with myself that have faced discrimination for years. It is liberating to know that my voice, my story, my loss, has been heard; that those championships I lost mean something. Finally, the government has recognized that women deserve the right to compete for victory, and nothing less.”
Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom