NC - Catherine Truitt Superintendent

Catherine Truitt

(The Center Square) – North Carolina Superintendent Catherine Truitt is formally opposing proposed federal Title IX regulations for transgender athletes, arguing they undermine the intent of the law.

The U.S. Department of Education is collecting public comment through May 15 on a proposed revision to Title IX that would ban schools policies that prohibit transgender students from participating on sports teams aligned with their gender identity.

The proposed rule comes as lawmakers in North Carolina and elsewhere are pursuing legislation to protect the integrity of women’s sports by requiring participation based on biological sex at birth. Violations of Title IX law can result in withholding of federal funds, which accounted for 15.7%, or more than $1 billion of the North Carolina public school budget in 2022-23, not including COVID-19 and child nutrition funds.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Truitt said the proposed rule “would undermine the intent of Title IX, which was to increase opportunities for female athletes.”

Truitt cited her experience as a mother of two female athletes and “the inherent and intrinsic biological differences between men and women that impact athletic performance.”

“Medical studies show us that there is an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females, ‘which is almost entirely attributable … to the production of testosterone,’” Truitt wrote, pointing to research from Duke University. “Testosterone affects everything from muscle size and strength; to heart size; to higher red blood count; to the percentage of fat on an athlete’s body. Testosterone production is ‘fundamental to the discrepancies in athletic performance typical of men and women.’”

The proposed rule would apply to public K-12 schools, as well as colleges, universities, and other institutions that receive federal funding. A fact sheet produced by the U.S. Department of Education contends the proposed rule “would establish that policies violate Title IX when they categorically ban transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with the gender identity just because of who they are."

“The proposed rule also recognizes that in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation,” the document read. “The proposed rule would provide schools with a framework for developing eligibility criteria that protects students from being denied equal athletic opportunity, while giving schools the flexibility to develop their own participation policies.”

Truitt says it’s possible to “respect individual gender preferences without reconstructing Title IX to inherently disadvantage women,” but “biological sex must be the basis for sporting events.”

“This proposed rule robs female athletes of those very opportunities Title IX is supposed to protect as this reconstructed mandate reduces her odds for a podium finish,” she wrote.

Twenty-one states prohibit transgender students from participating on sports teams that do not align with their biological sex at birth, according to the Movement Advancement Project that tracks state policies.

The North Carolina High School Athletics Association requires participation based on biological sex, but offers exemptions with attestations from medical providers and a recommendation from school officials. The policy went into effect in 2019; Associate Commissioner Karen DeHart told The Center Square via email that requests have been made by boys and girls, with only two denied.

The association recognized its first state champion in fall of 1913, its first girls state champion in 1971-72. Title IX was enacted in summer of 1972.

The state Senate passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act with a vote of 29-18 last month to limit participation based on biological sex, while the House voted 73-39 to approve a similar version. All-American swimmer Riley Gaines came to Raleigh to advocate for the bills.

The bills – House Bill 574 and Senate Bill 631 – are currently pending further committee review.