A Department of Education (DOE) letter obtained by the Associated Press shows that the department is considering withholding federal funding from the state of Connecticut because it allows transgender high school athletes to compete with their gender.
The 45-page letter from the DOE’s civil rights office argues that allowing transgender girls to compete in girls’ sports violates Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex in schools.
Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a complaint with the DOE, saying that Connecticut’s trans-inclusive policy is discriminatory against cisgender girls. The complaint referred to transgender girls as “biological males” and said that the state’s trans-inclusive policy was allowing them to take opportunities away from cisgender girls, which it argues is a form of sex discrimination banned by federal law.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has a long history of opposing transgender equality in schools, and leaked DOE emails showed last year that her department may have violated its own protocols to take action quickly against Connecticut.
Now the AP has uncovered evidence that the DOE may be planning to take away federal education funding from Connecticut over the issue.
The May 15 letter says that the state “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 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference said that its policy is in line with state law that bars discrimination against transgender students and that banning transgender girls from girls’ sports would be discrimination.
“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports,” the organization said in a prepared 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 interscholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law.”
“All that today’s finding represents is yet another attack from the Trump administration on transgender students,” said the ACLU’s Chase Strangio. “Trans students belong in our schools, including on sports teams, and we aren’t backing down from this fight.”
ADF has also helped file a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, representing three cisgender girls who argue that transgender girls are so much better at sports that “mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts.”
The lawsuit names two track and field athletes who are black and transgender – Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood – who have been at the center of the controversy in the state because they won several competitions. The plaintiffs wanted Miller and Yearwood blocked from this year’s track and field competitions, which were ultimately canceled due to the global pandemic.
The ACLU said that the ADF’s lawsuit targets “the inclusion of transgender girls in girls’ athletics” and is “a dangerous distortion of both law and science in the service of excluding trans youth from public life.”
“The purpose of high school athletics is to support inclusion, build social connection and teamwork, and help all students thrive and grow,” Strangio said. “Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports.”