Twenty-eight federal legislators have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) criticizing them for their finding that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC)’s policy regarding transgender athletes violates Title IX regulations and the OCR’s threatened to withhold federal aid from six Connecticut school districts, including Canton.
Jahana Hayes, Connecticut’s U.S. Representative in the 5th District, authored the letter that was also signed by U.S. Senators Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), state Representatives John Larson (1st District), Joe Courtney (2nd District), Rosa DeLauro (3rd District), Jim Himes (4th District) and 22 other Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In February, the Office of Civil Rights sent a letter of impending enforcement action to the CIAC and the six schools that said the CIAC policy violates federal law by allowing transgender athletes to compete in girls track and field events over the last three years.
The OCR said the policy gives the transgender athletes an unfair advantage and has deprived athletes – including Canton High graduate Chelsea Mitchell — of opportunities to qualify, compete and win at the State Open and New England track and field championship events.
“The decision of the Department of Education to issue a determination targeting transgender student athletes on the eve of Pride Month is not coincidental,” Hayes said. “It is a transparent example of their campaign against the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ children.”
“Title IX was created so that all young women – no matter their sex assigned at birth – are protected from discrimination and have access to opportunity. It was not meant to target children who do not identify as cisgender or create a space in which transgender kids must choose between living truthfully or having access to opportunities. Title IX was never meant to be used as a tool to threaten schools into discriminatory practices in order to preserve critically needed federal funds,” Hayes said in a press release last week.
Cisgender are people that identify with their gender assigned at birth.
Before becoming a member of Congress in 2018, Hayes was a teacher for 15 years. She was named the national teacher of the year in 2016.
The CIAC and the six schools – Canton, Bloomfield, Cromwell, Danbury, Glastonbury and Hartford (Bulkeley) – could lose federal funding, according to the OCR’s letter.
“The document is not a ruling, it is a finding,” said Dan Barrett, Legal Director of the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in May. “A finding is one early step in a long administrative process and a federal lawsuit is still ongoing.”
Last week, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, the CIAC and the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities said they will not fufill the OCR’s request and will uphold a Connecticut state law that allows transgender girls to compete in girls high school sports,
There are currently two cases in motion – one with the OCR and a federal lawsuit that was filed in February by the Alliance Defending Freedom organization on behalf of Mitchell, Glastonbury High senior Selina Soule and Danbury High sophomore Alanna Smith.
Hayes and the legislators that signed the letter asked the Department of Education to revisit this finding and to answer 11 questions about their filing by July 1. The questions are part of the news release.
With no final decision yet in the federal lawsuit or with the Office of Civil Rights process, the CIAC’s transgender policy remains in effect at this time.
Originally Published Sunday, June 21, 2020