Connecticut high school athletics organization claims it’s not subject to Title IX regulations

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), the organization that oversees high school sports in the state of Connecticut, argued that the group is not subject to federal law guaranteeing equal access to women and girls in education, including athletics in a court filing submitted on March 13. The argument comes in the context of three female high school runners suing to prevent transgender students from participating in girls sports, claiming male anatomy gives transgender runners an unfair advantage that violates Title IX.

“By its terms, Title IX applies only to recipients of federal funds,” the defense attorneys wrote in the filing, according to the Associated Press. “The Board of Education defendants do not contest that they are recipients of federal funds and subject to Title IX. The CIAC, however, is a private non-profit organization organized under the laws of the State of Connecticut. It does not receive any direct federal funding.”

Connecticut state law says public schools must treat students as the gender that they identify with. As a result, the conference currently allows that rule to dictate who can and cannot participate in gendered categories of sports. It’s what allowed Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, the two transgender runners who are at the center of this lawsuit, to participate in girls sports.

Christiana Holcomb, the lawyer representing the three high schoolers looking to ban transgender runners from girls sports, argued that the rule has damaged her clients — Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School — “in the form of lost state championship titles and a number of other awards and medals.” 

When this lawsuit was filed in February, the crux of the plaintiffs’ argument was that Miller and Yearwood’s dominance over their cis-gendered competition was proof of the unfair advantage they possessed as a result of their genitals. The evidence provided included the 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017 the two seniors had amassed, and the plaintiffs almost always losing to Miller and Yearwood. 

For as much as Holcomb is committed to proceeding with this case — a teleconference was reportedly held Thursday to discuss the timeline, which could include after the two trans students and two of the plaintiffs graduate — it will be interesting to see how the argument is presented, especially in the context of race results from the last two seasons. For example, in 18 races during that span where Mitchell and Miller competed against one another, Mitchell ended up finishing in a better position than Miller in nine of them, and outright won eight of them (one came from a Miller false start). In four races where Mitchell and Yearwood competed, Mitchell won four. The other two girls debatably have even less of an argument that Miller and Yearwood were responsible for their lost titles as they frequently finished multiple places behind either runner when competing against them.

As is frequently the case in these kinds of situations, how this plays out will ultimately be determined by what the courts ask Holcomb to prove. 

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