October 26, 2020

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Federal funding threatened over Connecticut transgender policy

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The U.S. Department of Education is following through on its threat to withhold federal funding...

The U.S. Department of Education is following through on its threat to withhold federal funding from Connecticut school districts that follow a statewide policy allowing transgender girls to compete on high school girls athletic teams, the Associated Press reported.

The department decided in May the policy violates the civil rights of student-athletes assigned female at birth and therefore violates Title IX laws. It said then it may withhold funding from schools and districts named in the complaint that continue to follow the policy.

A complaint was filed in June of 2019 by three cisgender female runners alleging the policy was “unfair” and cost them top finishes at the state meet and thereby chances at college scholarships.

Department of Education threatens to withhold school funding

School districts first became aware of potential withholdings at the beginning of September when they were asked to sign a document to receive grants. The document states they will “not participate in any interscholastic sporting events” unless the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference changes its policy, per the AP.

The change in policy would be similar to those being attempted in other states. Arizona passed its law in March that requires schools to have athletes participate in sport based on their biological sex.

New Haven and the Capitol Region Education Council were among the school districts to get the document, per the AP. The Federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grants they receive are reportedly worth approximately $3 million per year. It pays for teachers and administrative staff at the five-year magnet school.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said the city could lose the final two years of funding when the fiscal year ends this month, per the AP.

Athletic conference, school leaders stand by policy

Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn, in February 2019. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

Elicker and Timothy Sullivan Jr., superintendent of the CREC schools, said they don’t intend to sign the document.

“It is unconscionable that the federal government would threaten to take away funds that support Hartford area children during a pandemic, and we will fight to keep the money in our community,” he said, via the Associated Press. “However, no amount of money will deter us from accepting all children for who they are and providing equitable access to programs and services.”

The state’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the federal education department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights calling it “unprecedented overreach.” It said the office of civil rights seems “unwilling” to engage in “reasonable options” such as waiting for the court ruling on the policy. A federal lawsuit was filed in February by the cisgender athletes.

Education department argues policy violates Title IX

The education department decided it violated Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational institutions or activities. From the Associated Press in May:

It 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,” according to the letter, which is dated May 15.

Title IX was meant to guarantee equal educational opportunities, but is most often used and talked about in terms of athletics. If the law is violated, federal funding can be rescinded. But that is typically very rare.

The criminal complaint was filed with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm, and focuses on two transgender sprinters who frequently outperformed the plaintiffs in championship races. Since the criminal complaint, one of the plaintiffs won two indoor track titles over one of the transgender sprinters.

A federal complaint was filed by the ACLU and Legal Voice saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution since it’s discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.

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