In a ruling made public this week, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has ruled that the Connecticut policy allowing biological male athletes who identify as female to compete in girls sports violates the civil rights of actual female athletes.
The ruling, issued on May 15th and obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press, is the OCR’s official response to a complaint filed last year by a group of female track athletes.
Selina Soule, Chelsea Mitchell, and Alanna Smith argued that the pair of transgender runners who dominated the sport in the state had an unfair physical advantage.
In its 45-page letter, the OCR named the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference as well as several school districts named in the complaint.
The OCR expressed its commitment to “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the CIAC and those districts if they continue to allow biological males to compete as females, or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The letter confirmed that the policy is a clear violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women and girls, including in athletics.
The policy, the letter continues, 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.”
CIAC, however, says its policy complies with a state law barring schools from discriminating against transgender students.
“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports,” the athletic conference said in a statement, according to AP.
“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,” the statement adds.
Roger Brooks, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the girls who brought the complaint, says that the OCR ruling will carry weight beyond the bounds of Connecticut.
“Around the nation, districts are going to want to be reading this, because it does have legal implications,” Brooks said. “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.”
“I want to thank OCR for investigating our complaint,” Soule said in a statement, according to the Hartford Courant. “I am extremely happy that their investigation concluded that biological boys don’t belong in women sports.”
“It has been disappointing to find out that the athletic association and the schools we trusted to maintain fairness in sports and protect our rights have failed us. I trust that government officials will take immediate action to restore women’s sports.”
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