In this Feb. 7, 2019, photo, Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn. The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has found a Connecticut policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports is illegal. The office says the policy violates Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women, including in athletics.
Photo: AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb, File
Photo: AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb, File

The Trump Administration: Trans-inclusive sports policies violate law

The U.S. Department of Education could withhold federal funding if Connecticut does not reverse a policy allowing transgender students to participate in sports based on the gender with which they identify.

The federal rebuke came in response to a Title IX complaint filed by three female Connecticut runners, alleging they were at an unfair disadvantage competing against two transgender high school sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who, between them, have earned 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races.

Along with seeking an administrative investigation by the Office for Civil Rights, the three students filed a federal lawsuit in February based on Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding.

The complaint and lawsuit target a Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy that permits athletes to compete based on the gender with which they identify. Connecticut is among 18 states with such a policy.

In a 45-page letter, the education agency agreed with the three runners that the policy “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. Accordingly, OCR determined that the CIAC denied athletic benefits and opportunities to female student-athletes competing in Participation Policy, in violation of the regulation implementing Title IX...OCR also determined that the CIAC treated students differently based on sex, by denying opportunities and benefits to female student-athletes that were available to male student-athletes.”

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said the finding “represents another attack from the Trump administration on transgender students. Since 2017, DeVos’ Department of Education has taken consistent aim at transgender students. Once again, the administration is wrong on the law and we will continue to defend transgender students under Title IX and the Constitution. Trans students belong in our schools, including on sports teams, and we will not back down from this fight.”

A bill failed to advance in the Georgia House this year that would have required transgender students to play on teams based on the gender assigned at birth.  

Now, Georgia High School Assocation policy states it “will honor a gender determination made by a member school. The GHSA will not make gender identity determinations nor entertain appeals of the member school’s determination.”

“Biology is the gender identified at birth. No one is stopping a child from living his life as a female. Athletics is about biology, not about identity, not about politics,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Philip Singleton, R-Sharpsburg, when he first introduced his “Student Athlete Protection Act.”

“Athletics always divides people by physical comparability. It is why we limit middle school football to middle schoolers, why there is a 10-year-old age bracket for wrestling. You can’t be a 12-year-old and compete in an 8-year-old bracket,” said Singleton.

In March, the governor of Idaho signed the “Fairness in Women's Sports Act,” which states that "athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex."

The law also states:

A dispute regarding a student's sex shall be resolved by the school or institution by requesting that the student provide a health examination and consent form or other statement signed by the student's personal health care provider that shall verify the student's biological sex. The health care provider may verify the student's biological sex as part of a routine sports physical examination relying only on one or more of the following: the student's reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup, or normal endogenously produced testosterone levels.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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