Elections have consequences. Today, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) reversed a position it took during the Trump administration defending female high school athletes in Hartford, Connecticut who complained about having to compete against biological males in track and field sports.

In May 2020 the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights issued a letter of impending enforcement action on behalf of three high school athletes: Selina Soule, Alanna Smith and Chelsea Mitchell against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and several Connecticut school districts. The letter notified school officials that their policies of allowing biological males to compete in girls sports as transgender females violated Title IX, the 1972 federal law that created new opportunities for females in federally supported schools and sports by prohibiting discrimination in those same areas on the basis of sex.

The law requires schools to level the playing field financially when it comes to funding sports and other activities, eliminating disparities which had previously favored males.

Biological males – transgender females – who within the last few years were allowed to compete in high school girls track and field events in Connecticut have dominated the sport, denying biological females – including Soule, Smith and Mitchell – opportunities for trophies and, even more importantly, possible college scholarships.

In September 2020 the Office for Civil Rights sent a revised letter informing the Connecticut officials that its legal position had not changed due to the June decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County which held that transgender women were protected under a different federal law – Title VII – on the basis of sex.

Soule, Smith and Mitchell are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). In an ADF press release responding to the latest announcement from the Office for Civil Rights, ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb said:

“Defying common sense, the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration has abandoned its support for the deserving female athletes who have been sidelined and outpaced by males dominating girls sports. But the government’s politically motivated reversal can’t change biological reality or the correct interpretation of the law. Males will always have inherent physical advantages over comparably talented and trained girls; that’s the reason we have girls sports in the first place. In fact, Title IX exists precisely because of these differences and is intended to ensure that women and girls have an equal opportunity to compete, achieve, and win. We’re disappointed that our nation’s leaders have chosen to desert high school girls and pretend that their opportunities aren’t worth protecting. Girls and women in Connecticut—and across the country—deserve better.”

ADF also filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the female athletes at about the same time as DOE’s early involvement during the Trump administration. That lawsuit will presumably proceed on its own now that the DOE has abandoned its own administrative interest in the case.

Various state legislatures are stepping up to protect girls sports even as the current administration is backing away. Conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have introduced protective legislation, but in the face of the current administration’s support for transgender athletes, it is more of a statement of support for female athletes than something with a realistic chance to be signed into law.


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Photo from Alliance Defending Freedom