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Under pressure from feds, university rescinds transgender inclusive sports policy

Betsy Devos’s Office of Civil Rights claims Franklin Pierce University and NCAA policy violate Title IX.

2019 NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships
In 2019, Franklin Pierce University’s CeCé Telfer became the NCAA’s first trans student-athlete to win an individual national title in track and field.
Photo by Rudy Gonzalez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

One year ago, a transgender student athlete representing New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce University raced to an NCAA championship. On Saturday, under pressure brought by an anti-LGBTQ lobbying group, FPU agreed to rescind their schools transgender inclusion policy for student athletes. It happened amid an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which claims that the policy violates Title IX.

The catalyst for this action stemmed from a complaint to the OCR filed by Concerned Women for America, a Washington, D.C.-based Christian, anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ organization. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the complaint was filed in 2019 after FPU track and field student athlete Cecé Telfer, a transgender woman, won the 400-meter hurdles in the NCAA Division II outdoor national championship meet. Telfer is the first transgender student athlete to win an individual track and field NCAA championship.

The president and CEO of the CWA, Penny Nance, told the Union Leader that the complaint to OCR was necessary because transgender inclusion policies, in her words, “have turned Title IX on its head.”

The agreement itself, signed by FPU President Dr. Kim Mooney, called for the policy to be rescinded immediately. The terms also included taking down all mentions of the policy in campus areas including the university’s webpages, and FPU would have to “provide the OCR evidence sufficient to indicate that the notice of rescission and accompanying statement has been posted.”

The university is not the first target of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s campaign against transgender student athletes; Connecticut has thus far resisted its threats to withhold federal education funding if trans inclusion policies were not abandoned. Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont told DeVos to “butt out.”

Outsports reached out to FPU officials including Andrew Pollom, FPU’s Dean of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator and FPU Athletic Director Rachel Burleson. As of press time, neither have responded. The university did release this statement:

“Franklin Pierce University is committed to an inclusive environment for all of its students. We regret that we were required to rescind the Transgender Participation and Inclusion Policy we adopted and put forward based on the NCAA’s model, but have made this move to comply with a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 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 (sent to us on October 16, 2020) that the provision within our policy were consistent with the NCAA’s Policy of Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, which was promulgated in 2011. We will continue to work with the Northeast-10 Conference and the NCAA on this important issue.

Outsports also reached out to Telfer, who graduated from the school last year. She declined comment on the advice of attorneys.