In a 45-page document obtained by the Associated Press on Thursday, the OCR responded to a federal discrimination complaint seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls’ sports. Three high school runners, represented by conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed the complaint in June 2019, arguing that allowing male-born athletes has deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities.
“This discriminatory policy is now regularly resulting in boys displacing girls in competitive track events in Connecticut—excluding specific and identifiable girls including Complainants from honors, opportunities to compete at higher levels, and public recognition critical to college recruiting, and scholarship opportunities that should go to those girls,” the ADF argued in its complaint (pdf).
The OCR ruled in favor of the Connecticut girls, saying the policy violated Title IX, a federal law that bans sex- or gender-based discrimination in any educational programs or activities.
The policy in question has “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,” read the letter, reported the Associated Press.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), which administers high school sports in the state, has previously said its policy was in line with a state anti-discrimination law requiring students to be treated in school according to the gender with which they identify.
The OCR reportedly also said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the CIAC and the school districts, or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys makes them spectators in their own sports, which is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities,” said ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb in a press release last year. “Women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”
The ruling comes as Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is challenged in a federal court by LGBT-friendly American Civil Liberties Union. Signed by Republican Gov. Brad Little in March, the law prohibits transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges, and universities, citing that “inherent, physiological differences between males and females result in different athletic capabilities.” The ban does not apply to men’s teams.