The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, Region I, announced in a letter dated Aug. 7 that the agency is opening an investigation based on a complaint that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference policy permitting transgender athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics based on their gender identification in school records and daily life discriminates against girls.
Selina Soule, 16, claims two biological boys who identify as female ran in the same 55-meter event as she did, denying her the sixth-place finish needed to advance to the New England regionals, where she says college coaches could have seen her compete. The complaint was filed by three parents on behalf of their student daughters — Soule and two other girls.
The complaint also alleges that the CIAC retaliated against Soule's parent after she complained about the Transgender Participation Policy. In addition, the complaint alleges that the Glastonbury Board of Education [the District] discriminated against girls, including the three complainants in this case, when it denied equal athletic benefits and opportunities to them through the Transgender Participation Policy, and when it did not request that CIAC change said policy. The complaint further alleges that the District retaliated against one of the complainants.
Because the OCR determined that it has jurisdiction and that the allegations were timely filed, it is opening the following issues for investigation:
• Whether the CIAC and the District have denied equal athletic benefits and opportunities to girls, including the three complainants, through the Transgender Participation Policy.
• Whether the CIAC retaliated against Complainant 1 for her advocacy against the Transgender Participation Policy by informing Complainant 1 in March 2019 that the CIAC’s Executive Director would no longer accept communications from her.
• Whether the District retaliated against Student 2 for her and Complainant 2’s advocacy against the Transgender Participation Policy when Student 2’s track coach replaced Student 2 on the sprint medley relay team in February 2019, told Student 2 and her parents that he could not give a good report to college coaches about her, denied Student 2 a position as a team captain, and suggested that she should leave the outdoor track team due to her schedule in March 2019.
According to a press release issued Wednesday by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit Christian legal aid organization that helped the file the complaint, "The complaint also describes how one mid-level male sophomore athlete failed to advance in boys’ indoor track events during the Winter 2018 season and then abruptly began competing in the girls’ events in the Spring 2018 outdoor track season. The student then 'deprived girls of opportunities to advance and participate in state-level competition' in every statewide elimination track event that the student completed. That student now holds more than 10 records within the state of Connecticut that once belonged to 10 different girls."
Writing for outsports.com, Ken Schultz argues, "The ADF’s press release detailing the news is a tough read filled with deliberately misgendered language, describing Connecticut’s trans-inclusive policy as allowing “biological males who claim a female identity to compete in girls’ athletic events.” Performances of a few elite transgender athletes are often cherrypicked to fit a certain narrative, even as other transgender athletes place much lower in the same athletic events, according to Schultz.
How soon the debate over competition fairness will be settled, if at all, remains unclear. The OCR letter states, "Please note that opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination on the merits of the complaint. ... This letter sets forth OCR’s determination in an individual OCR case. This letter is not a formal statement of OCR policy and should not be relied upon, cited, or construed as such."
The letter also states, "Please be advised that the CIAC and the District must not harass, coerce, intimidate, discriminate, or otherwise retaliate against an individual because that individual asserts a right or privilege under a law enforced by OCR or files a complaint, testifies, assists, or participates in a proceeding under a law enforced by OCR. If this happens, the individual may file a retaliation complaint with OCR."