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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    Are the feds really going to withhold money from 1st graders?

    See if this sentence makes sense to you: The Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, an elementary school which offers no organized sports and does not fall under Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference auspices, may lose $400,000 in federal funding because of the CIAC's policy on transgender athletes.

    Go ahead. Read that again. An elementary school with no ties whatsoever to CIAC may lose $400,000 in federal funding because of the CIAC's stance on transgender athletes.

    This is the federal government in all its splendor.

    My country tis of thee. Sweet land of idiocy. Of thee I sing.

    Here is the (sort of) two-minute drill version:

    The U.S. Department of Education recently told Groton superintendent Mike Graner that its federal magnet school grant funding may be in jeopardy if the district abides by the CIAC's policy for transgender athletes, which the federal government says violates Title IX.

    The CIAC allows transgender athletes to compete under the gender with which they identify, evidenced by the recent controversies over whether two transgender female runners, recent graduates Terry Miller of Bloomfield and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell, should have been allowed to compete against their cisgender (a person whose gender identity corresponds with that person's biological sex assigned at birth) peers.

    How in the name of common sense is all this related?

    Groton receives federal funding as part of a larger five-year Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant awarded to LEARN, an Old Lyme-based regional education service center. Funding for LEARN, the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, Teachers' Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School and Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle School in Norwich, also is at risk, LEARN Executive Director Kate Ericson said. More than $3 million could be lost this year, and about $2.5 million next year.

    Graner said the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights contacted him in early August to ask if Fitch High School had transgender athletes or competed against them. The answer: No. But, when asked hypothetically, he said the district would follow state law and the CIAC's policy, which recognizes that transgender athletes compete under the gender with which they identify.

    Are you having as much trouble as I am connecting THOSE dots?

    None of the aforementioned LEARN schools are tied to CIAC. Yet the federal government is perfectly willing to use kids as pawns in an argument of two mutually exclusive ideas.

    And make no mistake: These are two different arguments. Argument one: Should the federal government withhold funds for schools who have not violated Title IX in any way and have no ties to CIAC whatsoever? Argument 2: Should transgender athletes compete under the gender with which they identify?

    Surely, we can have opinions on both. But the idea they are related goes past absurd and straight into ludicrous.

    Argument 1: Seems simple. You want to hold CIAC schools accountable for CIAC decisions? Free country. But how is some first-grader at RMMS somehow culpable? Withholding funds from innocent elementary school kids because of a CIAC policy is as mutually exclusive as the concepts of "federal government" and "compassion."

    Argument 2: I wrote about transgender athletes in the summer. My view hasn't changed. Allowing transgender athletes to compete under the gender with which they identify benignly neglects a pervasive and unfair athletic advantage.

    Our antiquated, one-size-fits-all laws on this issue do not address the inherent concerns of equity, morality and biology. They need to be rewritten. They do not sufficiently and specifically address the unique requirements and vagaries of sports as they relate to life's other engagements and competitions.

    Here is what I mean: Recently, the Supreme Court advanced the cause of LGBTQ rights, ruling that a landmark civil rights law barring sex discrimination in the workplace applies to gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

    "An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex," Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote. "Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee's sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law."

    Nobody with a conscience should argue that. Sex discrimination in education, health care, housing and financial credit have no place in this country. Yet applying to a school or for health care, housing or financial credit requires no physical component to succeed. Sports require a physical component. They do not belong under the same umbrella.

    Why can't we explore a new, sports-centric law that acknowledges sports' unique challenges and accommodates the physical component for success that exists virtually nowhere else in society? A law that defers to science?

    Once again: Sex discrimination in education, health care, housing and financial credit have no place in this country. But we must — must — realize and accept that sports are different.

    I respect the CIAC's stance. I just disagree with it. But threats to withhold federal funding are too punitive given the complexities of this issue. How typical that this administration leans into punishment before considering thoughtful compromise — or at least amending a law that is nearly 50 years old.

    Title IX no longer scratches the problem where it itches. It was written 48 years ago. It uses the word "sex" and not "gender." We are learning the differences. Title IX reads, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

    Based on that wording, I'm not sure we'll ever do any better than we are now. We need a new law. A unique, sports-centric law. Because sports are different. The law must be stable, but cannot stand still.

    And the idea of holding first-graders accountable?



    Any of our elected officials care to take a stance on this beyond the prototypical rhetoric? Seems the children need a voice.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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