Feds to in­ves­ti­gate Conn. trans­gen­der ath­lete pol­icy

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen Me­gan CTMIRROR.ORG

Selina Soule said Mon­day she is “grate­ful” the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Of­fice of Civil Rights has agreed to in­ves­ti­gate Con­necti­cut’s pol­icy that al­lows trans­gen­der high school ath­letes to com­pete as the gen­der with which they iden­tify.

“Girls should never be sim­ply spec­ta­tors in their own sport, they de­serve to com­pete on a level play­ing field,” said the Glas­ton­bury High School ath­lete. “I hope that this im­por­tant step will help re­turn fair­ness to the sport I love, for me and for all girls who dream big.”

Soule and two other girls who were not named filed a

com­plaint in June con­tend­ing the Con­necti­cut In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic Con­fer­ence pol­icy on trans­gen­der ath­lete par­tic­i­pa­tion vi­o­lates Ti­tle IX.

In a let­ter to the Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom, the con­ser­va­tive group that filed the com­plaint on be­half of Soule and the two other girls, Adri­enne M. Mundy­Shep­ard, act­ing re­gional di­rec­tor for the Of­fice for Civil Rights, wrote that “open­ing the com­plaint for in­ves­ti­ga­tion in no way im­plies that OCR has made a de­ter­mi­na­tion on the mer­its of the com­plaint.”

The com­plaint ar­gues that the girls’ Ti­tle IX rights have been vi­o­lated by the CIAC pol­icy be­cause it pits girls against ath­letes who are bi­o­log­i­cally male de­spite their fe­male gen­der iden­tity. They con­tend the sit­u­a­tion has robbed them of top fin­ishes, the chance to com­pete in post­sea­son play and pos­si­bly col­lege schol­ar­ships.

Chris­tiana Hol­comb, le­gal coun­sel for the Al­liance, said the OCR de­ci­sion to in­ves­ti­gate is “ex­cel­lent news. It’s cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion. We are op­ti­mistic now that OCR has opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that it will ul­ti­mately con­clude that the [CIAC] vi­o­lated Ti­tle IX by al­low­ing bi­o­log­i­cal males to com­pete in girls ath­let­ics.”

Hol­comb said, how­ever that she wanted to clar­ify that at this point, all that OCR has said is that “they rec­og­nize they have ju­ris­dic­tion and have opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

A state­ment from the CIAC said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is “com­mit­ted to eq­uity in pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to stu­dent ath­letes in Con­necti­cut, and the CIAC will par­tic­i­pate fully with this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

In the let­ter, the OCR says it will in­ves­ti­gate whether the CIAC and the Glas­ton­bury Board of Ed­u­ca­tion have “de­nied equal ath­letic ben­e­fits and op­por­tu­ni­ties to girls” through the trans­gen­der par­tic­i­pa­tion pol­icy.

The OCR said it will also in­ves­ti­gate whether the CIAC re­tal­i­ated against one of the com­plainants for her ad­vo­cacy against the trans­gen­der pol­icy by in­form­ing her in March 2019 that the CIAC’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor would no longer ac­cept com­mu­ni­ca­tions from her.

And OCR said it will look into whether the Glas­ton­bury dis­trict “re­tal­i­ated” against a stu­dent when, the let­ter says, her track coach re­placed her on a sprint med­ley team in Fe­bru­ary 2019; told her and her par­ents that he could not give a good re­port to col­lege coaches about her; and de­nied her a po­si­tion as a team cap­tain.

Glas­ton­bury Su­per­in­ten­dent Alan Book­man said of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion: “We’re ob­vi­ously go­ing to de­fend our po­si­tion. We feel we’ve done ev­ery­thing cor­rectly and that’s out job to show that to the Of­fice of Civil Rights.”

Dan Bar­rett, le­gal di­rec­tor for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Con­necti­cut, which has helped trans­gen­der ath­letes An­draya Year­wood of Cromwell and Terry Miller of Bloom­field said, “Ef­forts to un­der­mine Ti­tle IX by claim­ing it doesn’t ap­ply to a sub­set of girls will ul­ti­mately hurt all stu­dents.

“Girls who are trans­gen­der are girls. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion – from the Of­fice of Civil Rights to the Supreme Court – is sys­tem­at­i­cally try­ing to roll back rights for trans­gen­der peo­ple in all as­pects of life,” Bar­rett con­tin­ued. “We will fight to de­fend trans­gen­der peo­ple across the coun­try, in­clud­ing in sports. Con­necti­cut’s pol­icy of al­low­ing all girls, in­clud­ing trans­gen­der girls, to run on the girls team re­mains un­changed.“

With the CIAC pol­icy in play, Year­wood and Miller have won mul­ti­ple cham­pi­onships, with Miller shat­ter­ing state records in re­cent years and winning the Hartford Courant’s girls’ in­door track and field ath­lete of the year award this year.

There is no time frame on when OCR will com­plete its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Glas­ton­bury's Selina Soule com­petes in the girls long jump dur­ing Class LL track and field cham­pi­onship in New Bri­tain on May 29.

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