The federal Office for Civil Rights is investigating Connecticut’s trans-inclusive high school athletics policy in a probe that could lead to a full reversal of how Title IX is interpreted.
The U.S. Department of Education, head up by Betsy DeVos, made the announcement in a letter on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Under her leadership, the department has already ceased investigating complaints from trans students being blocked from bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.
That stance is in direct opposition to the position the Obama administration took, which saw Title IX’s protections on the basis of sex as including transgender individuals, which therefore meant it was discriminatory to not provide them with equal rights and access.
The Department of Education’s decision to investigate the policy allowing transgender athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify without restrictions, such as surgery or hormone requirements, follows a complaint filed in June by the parents of three girls who say they were discriminated against in having to compete against trans students.
According to ABC, the trans athletes named in the complaint—Andraya Yearwood (above) and Terry Miller (below), both of whom it misgenders—have started hormone therapy.
Leaked emails show the administration was quick to jump on investigating the situation even before it had developed a legal strategy, the Washington Blade reports.
The complaint, submitted on their behalf by the conservative Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, argues the transgender girls have an unfair advantage, due to what they call “male hormone levels and musculature,” which they say amounts to violating Title IX’s intent to ensure equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including athletic competition.
The complaint claims the cisgender students, two of whom are anonymous, one of whom is named as Selina Soule, should not have been made to compete against trans athletes.
“Girls should never be simply spectators in their own sport; they deserve to compete on a fair playing field,” said Soule. “I hope that this important step will help return fairness to the sport I love.”
The Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has said it is following the state’s non-discrimination law requiring transgender students to be treated in accordance with the gender with which they identify, and said it would cooperate with any investigations.
“Policies like those in Connecticut are in place in 17 states and thousands of schools across the country and have ensured fair opportunity for every student athlete,” Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Washington Blade. “This is yet another desperate attempt by the ADF to strip transgender students of the rights every student deserves and policies that provide them the same opportunities as every other student.”
The Supreme Court is set to decide whether federal civil rights law protecting against sex discrimination covers LGBTQ people. It will begin hearing arguments in that case on October 8 of this year, with a decision expected sometime next year.