Law & the Courts

High School Students File Lawsuit to Block Transgender Athletes in Connecticut

Flag at a protest against Trump administration transgender policies in New York City, 2018 (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Three female high-school students and their families filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to block transgender athletes from competing in girls sports in Connecticut.

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, argue in their suit that they have been personally been harmed by a policy allowing biological males to compete against them in their running events, missing their chances at championship titles, state records, and scholarship opportunities.

The three accomplished runners are suing several city education boards as well as the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which in 2017 changed its policies to allow biological males who identify as female to compete in girls sports.

“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but to win fair and square,” Mitchell said, according to the Associated Press. “All we’re asking for is a fair chance.”

“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” Smith said. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”

Their lawyers argue that the policy flouts Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally-funded education programs.

“Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the girls. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”

During last year’s Indoor Track & Field State Championships, Soule finished one place away from qualifying for finals and two places away from qualifying to compete before college scouts at the New England Regional Championships. Two of the athletes ahead of her were transgender, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have competed against Mitchell and Smith as well.

Mitchell missed out on achieving the title of state champion four times because she was competing against transgender athletes. Smith, the daughter of former MLB pitcher Lee Smith, has placed close behind transgender competitors as well.

The girls also filed a complaint last year with the Department of Education, which is investigating the policy.

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