The New Haven school system has no transgender athletes, according to Mayor Justin Elicker, but the district was among several in Connecticut targeted for funding cuts by the U.S. Department of Education.
That’s because the district is a member of the Connecticut Interscholatistic Athletic Conference, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
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“It is unethical that the federal government is using extortion to force New Haven to implement a policy that is against our values and against state law,” Elicker said.
If the U.S. Department of Education attempts to withhold funding, Elicker said the city will take legal action.
Officials in New Haven and several other municipalities targeted for potential cuts are in discussions with federal Education Department officials to resolve the issue, he said.
For New Haven, there’s $6 million on the line – the final two years of a $3 million per year grant that is used to fund science, technology, engineering and mathematics, social justice and other programs for five city schools.
Four of the schools are elementary and middle schools. The fifth has no high school-level athletic programs. But all could lose the Magnet School Assistance Program grant because the district is a member of the CIAC which governs high school sports, Elicker said.
“The federal government is using multiple angles in their efforts to deteriorate the rights of transgender individuals,” he said.
The state of Connecticut banned discrimination based on gender identity in 2011. The CIAC followed suit and also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity on the athletic field.
The CIAC policy was called into question early this year, however, when three cisgender female athletes filed a federal lawsuit claiming their right to equal participation under Title IX was being violated by the CIAC, which allows transgender females to compete in women’s sports.
New Haven was not among the municipalities named in the lawsuit, which is still pending.
The federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued two letters of “Impending Enforcement Action” to the municipalities being sued following an investigation. Those include Glastonbury, Bloomfield, Cromwell, Hartford, Canton and Danbury.
The Office of Civil Rights concluded from the investigation that cisgender female high school students had been denied athletic benefits and opportunities to participate in finals and championships because of the transgender policy.
As a result, those school districts that had been investigated were threatened with losing various types of funding, according to court papers.
But New Haven is among five Connecticut districts, including the Capitol Region Education Council which runs magnet schools in the greater Hartford area, and similar schools in New London, Groton, Enfield and Norwich, that receive the MSAP money and were told their funding was in jeopardy unless they agree to not discriminate on race, sex, religion, color, national origin or disability.
“Congress requires the Department to withhold funds from schools that aren’t in compliance with the law,” said Angela Morabito, press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.
“Connecticut applicants declined – on multiple occasions – to assure the Office for Civil Rights that they are in compliance with Title IX.”
Elicker contends that the federal agency has a process for changing their policies that they aren’t following. He also said the federal government is asking the city to violate state law by discriminating based on gender identity.
The process to receive the funding includes a signed “civil rights non-discrimination assurance” form and the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights must determine that the “assurances” are met, according to the agency.