Following its months-long investigation into the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and several Connecticut school districts, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has issued a letter of impending enforcement action, finding that the athletic conference’s policy allowing males who identify as female to compete in girls’ athletic events disadvantages female athletes, denies them equal athletic opportunities, and violates federal law.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing three female high-school track competitors and their mothers requested the DOE Office of Civil Rights investigation after the CIAC decided to allow male students who identify as female to compete on the girls’ athletic teams. Since 2017, males consistently deprived ADF clients Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell and others of honors and opportunities to compete at elite levels.
“Girls shouldn’t be reduced to spectators in their own sports,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “We’re encouraged that the Department of Education has officially clarified that allowing males to compete in the female category isn’t fair, destroys girls’ athletic opportunities, and clearly violates federal law. Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls—that’s the reason we have girls’ sports in the first place. In light of the department’s letter, we’re asking Connecticut schools and the CIAC to update their problematic policies and comply with federal law.”
The OCR letter gives the CIAC and six Connecticut public high schools until June 4 to bring their policies into alignment with Title IX. The Department of Justice has already filed a brief supporting the position of ADF’s clients in the separate litigation challenging the same policy.
“I am extremely happy and relieved to learn that OCR found the CIAC and the school districts violated Title IX,” Connecticut student Chelsea Mitchell, one of the athletes represented by ADF, said. “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 to know that my voice, my story, my loss, has been heard; that those championships I lost mean something. Finally, the government has recognized that women deserve the right to compete for victory, and nothing less.”
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys asked DOE to investigate in June 2019 and filed the lawsuit Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in the following February. The lawsuit argues that CIAC’s new policy and others like it pose a concrete threat to Title IX gains because “inescapable biological facts of the human species [are] not stereotypes, ‘social constructs,’ or relics of past discrimination.” As a result of the policy in Connecticut, two males have taken 15 women’s state championship titles (held in 2016 by nine different Connecticut girls) and took more than 85 opportunities to participate in higher level competitions from female track athletes in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons alone.