The Department of Education has settled a complaint by Concerned Women for America (CWA) against Franklin Pierce University (FPU), with the New Hampshire-based university agreeing to prohibit male-born athletes from competing in women’s sports.
Under the resolution agreement, the FPU is required to rescind its 2018 policy for school sports, which allowed transgender student-athletes to participate on women’s sports teams after one year of testosterone-suppression treatment.
“Franklin Pierce University regrets that we must remove our previously published Transgender Participation and Inclusion Policy,” an Oct. 17 statement posted on FPU’s compliance website reads. “We remain committed to an inclusive environment for all of our students while also complying with federal law. Franklin Pierce University and the Department of Athletics will continue to support all students and student-athletes.”
CWA, an evangelical Christian women’s group, filed the civil rights complaint in 2019 after FPU’s Cece Telfer, a transgender athlete who had previously competed on the men’s track team, won the 400-meter hurdles by more than a second to claim a national women’s title at the Division II NCAA Track and Field Championships of that year. The controversy surrounding Telfer’s national title drew criticism from conservative voices, including Donald Trump Jr., who at that time called it “yet another grave injustice to so many young women who trained their entire lives to achieve excellence.”
In its complaint, CWA alleged that the university denied female students equal athletic opportunities—a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights agreed with CWA, saying in the agreement letter (pdf) that FPU must make sure female athletes are provided opportunities and benefits that are equal to those provided to male counterparts in order to meet the Title IX requirements.
Penny Nance, CWA’s CEO and president, called the resolution agreement “the first victory for college female athletes being forced to compete on an unfair playing field against males claiming transgender status and competing in women’s sports.”
“Transgender policies have turned Title IX on its head, denying the rights of women and girl athletes to compete only against athletes of the same sex and threatening the future of women’s sports,” Nance said in an Oct. 16 statement. “Federal action against Franklin Pierce University is a warning shot to the NCAA and every college and university in America to back off policies that discriminate against female student-athletes and restore fairness and equity in women’s sports.”