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New Hampshire college rescinds trans-inclusive athletic policy after federal complaint

Franklin Pierce University removed its trans student athlete policy after the Department of Education said it violated Title IX

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Photo: tableatny, via Wikimedia

A New Hampshire college has rescinded its trans-inclusive policy for sports programs, after a conservative Christian group filed a complaint with the Trump administration.

Franklin Pierce University’s “transgender participation and inclusion policy” permitted trans women to compete on women’s sports teams following a year of testosterone suppression treatment, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

But the 2018 policy came under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which claimed that the policy violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars sex-based discrimination in educational programs and extracurriculars.

Related: Connecticut trans athlete policy violates Title IX, says Education Department

The OCR argued that Franklin Pierce’s policy “denies female student-athletes equal athletic benefits and opportunities.”

OCR’s involvement came after Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian group, filed a complaint with the DOE against Franklin Pierce, following trans student Cece Telfer’s victory in the 400-meter hurdles finals at the 2019 Division II NCAA Track and Field Championships.

Telfer’s win made headlines and generated controversy among conservatives, including Donald Trump Jr., son of President Donald Trump, who tweeted that the result was “yet another grave injustice to so many young women who trained their entire lives to achieve excellence.”

Franklin Pierce reached an agreement with the Department of Education that involved rescinding the policy, a decision that was announced on the university’s website on Oct. 17.

“Franklin Pierce University regrets that we must remove our previously published Transgender Participation and Inclusion Policy,” the announcement read. “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.”

University leaders said they disagreed “with the position that the federal administration has taken with respect to trans-inclusive athletics participation,” and that the “provisions within our policy were consistent with the NCAA’s Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, which was promulgated in 2011.”

Penny Nance, president and CEO of the CWA, celebrated the removal of the policy, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader that it was a “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.”

She said that policies allowing trans student athletes to compete in accordance with the gender identity have “turned Title IX on its head.”

The issue of transgender females competing in women’s sports has drawn the ire of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, who has been accused of threatening to withhold funding from educational institutions and organizations that allow participation based on gender identity.

Related: Betsy DeVos threatens to withhold money over transgender athletes

In contrast to FPU’s policy withdrawal, Connecticut’s Interscholastic Athletic Conference has continued to resist threats to withhold federal education funding if their trans-inclusive policies are not abandoned, with Gov. Ned Lamont last month telling DeVos to “butt out.”

Republican leaders in South Dakota were also las month accused of holding a “petty” and “obnoxious” debate over trans student athletes, with Democrats calling the issue an “obsession” among GOP lawmakers in the states.

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