Franklin Pierce University is rescinding its “transgender participation and inclusion policy” for school sports, after reaching an agreement to resolve a case filed against the university with the U.S. Department of Education.
The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights expressed concern that the 2018 policy, which allowed transgender women to participate on women’s sports teams after one year of testosterone-suppression treatment, “denies female student-athletes equal athletic benefits and opportunities.” And that, OCR found, violates Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs and activities on the basis of sex.
This statement was posted Saturday on FPU’s compliance website: “Franklin Pierce University regrets that we must remove our previously published Transgender Participation and Inclusion Policy. We remain committed to an inclusive environment for all of our students while also complying with federal law. Franklin Pierce University and the Department of Athletics will continue to support all students and student-athletes.”
The case stemmed from a civil rights complaint filed by Concerned Women for America (CWA) against FPU after Cece Telfer, a transgender athlete at the school, won a national women’s title at the 2019 Division II NCAA Track and Field Championships.
The controversy surrounding Telfer’s feat drew a response from the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who on Twitter called it “yet another grave injustice to so many young women who trained their entire lives to achieve excellence.”
Penny Nance, CWA’s chief executive officer and president, called the resolution agreement “the first victory for college female athletes being forced to compete on an unfair playing field against males claiming transgender status and competing in women’s sports.”
Transgender sports policies, Nance said, “have turned Title IX on its head.”
CWA, according to its mission statement, “protects and promotes Biblical values and Constitutional principles through prayer, education, and advocacy.”
In a statement, FPU leaders expressed “regret” at having to rescind the policy. “While we disagree with the position that the federal administration has taken with respect to trans-inclusive athletics participation, the Office for Civil Rights confirmed in its resolution letter … that the provisions within our policy were consistent with the NCAA’s Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, which was promulgated in 2011,” the statement read. “We will continue to work with the Northeast-10 Conference and the NCAA on this important issue.”
Transgender participation in sports has been a thorny issue in New Hampshire and nationwide.
Last March, the New Hampshire House killed a bill aimed at preventing transgender girls from competing on female sports team. An attorney from the Attorney General’s civil rights unit had testified that the bill could violate a law passed a year earlier that outlawed discrimination based on gender identity.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association leaves it up to individual school districts to determine eligibility rules for transgender students. “The NHIAA has concluded that it would be fundamentally unjust and contrary to applicable State and Federal Law to preclude a student from participation on a gender specific sports team that is consistent with the public gender identity of that student for all other purposes,” its bylaws state
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s handbook on “Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes” states: “The benefits of school sports participation include many positive effects on physical, social, and emotional well-being. All students, including those who are transgender, deserve access to these benefits.”
“Gender identity is a core aspect of a person’s identity, and it is just as deep seated, authentic, and real for a transgender person as for others,” the handbook states.
The handbook also states that any strength and endurance advantages a transgender woman may have due to prior testosterone levels dissipate after a year of hormone therapy.
“According to medical experts on this issue, the assumption that a transgender woman competing on a women’s team would have a competitive advantage outside the range of performance and competitive advantage or disadvantage that already exists among female athletes is not supported by evidence,” it says.
The New Hampshire case is unlikely to be the last word on the issue.
In a statement Friday, CWA’s Nance said: “Federal action against Franklin Pierce University is a warning shot to the NCAA and every college and university in America to back off policies that discriminate against female student-athletes and restore fairness and equity in women’s sports.”