The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found a Connecticut policy which enabled male students identifying as female to participate in athletic competitions against female students was in violation of Title IX, after a several-month investigation.
The investigation was prompted by a request from Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit advocacy group representing the families of three female high school athletes who were affected by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy. Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell are all track competitors forced to compete against male students as a result of the policy. Since 2017, Alliance Defending Freedom reported that two male athletes “have taken 15 women’s state championship titles” in Connecticut, titles which belonged to nine female athletes the year before.
The CIAC’s policy, claiming that it would be “fundamentally unjust and contrary to state and federal law” not to allow students to participate in athletics based on the gender of their choice, “defer[red] to the determination of the student and his or her local school regarding gender identification.”
In its “Reference Guide for Transgender Policy,” the CIAC cited Connecticut General Statute § 46a-64(a), which makes it a violation “to discriminate, segregate or separate on account of…gender identity or expression.” But on May 15, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter of impending enforcement action to the CIAC as well as six Connecticut school districts. In the letter, the Department of Education found that the CIAC “denied athletic benefits and opportunities to female student-athletes…in violation of the regulation implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
If the CIAC and the involved school districts fail to implement the Education Department’s direction, the letter threatens to “initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance,” or to refer the cases to the Department of Justice.
Athlete Chelsea Mitchell, one of the female students involved in the case against the Connecticut policy, responded to the news. “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,” she added, “to know that my voice, my story, my loss, has been heard.”