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Complaint filed over transgender MIL track athlete

Coach, a parent of female athlete, voices concern

A Title IX complaint was filed this week by the parent of a female high school athlete over a transgender competitor in the Maui Interscholastic League girls track and field season, which began Friday.

On Thursday, Cynthia Monteleone, the mother of the female athlete and a Lahainaluna High School track coach, sent a written complaint to the state Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and state education and high school athletic officials.

In her complaint, Monteleone said she was taking action “because boys and men have dramatic advantages over girls and women in athletics. Their performance is greatly enhanced compared to females, due to basic physiological differences.”

Monteleone said the transgender athlete had competed in girls’ volleyball at Kamehameha Schools Maui in the fall. Previously, the athlete had been competing as a male, Monteleone said.

Monteleone, an award-winning track athlete, alleges that the Hawaii High School Athletics Association’s policy regarding transgender athletes is in violation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination against a person on the basis of sex, by discriminating against female athletes.

In an email Friday afternoon, the state Department of Education said that it “guides all public schools to support transgender students and to provide a safe and nurturing environment in both academics and athletics. Students are allowed to participate in recreational gym class activities and in-school sports in accordance with their sincerely held gender identity.”

The department added that extracurricular league sports are governed by the HHSAA. Each of the state’s five leagues are in charge of regular season sports while the HHSAA is in charge of state tournaments.

MIL Executive Director Joe Balangitao and HHSAA officials could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In August, when news surfaced of the transgender volleyball player, Balangitao said the league was following the lead of HHSAA, which adopted a policy on transgender athletes in 2017.

In part, the policy says “a student has the right to participate in athletics in a manner consistent with the sex listed on their school records. A student whose gender identity is different than the sex listed on the student’s registration records may participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity” by taking steps, which include contacting the school administrator or athletic director regarding differences in school records and the student’s desire to participate in sports based on the student’s gender identity.

The policy also notes “a student is presumed eligible to participate in HHSAA activities in a manner consistent with their school registration records, even if that differs from the sex assigned at birth.”

There also is a process to challenge the eligibility of a transgender athlete by opposing teams.

In Monteleone’s complaint, she said that the participation of males claiming female identity in sports “will deprive females of advancement and equal opportunity to fair competition.”

“My daughter, and the girls I coach, as well as other girls in the state of Hawaii who are comparably gifted and trained, will be deprived of placement, victories, public recognition, and opportunities to advance to more elite competition, like the state championship.”

“Most of all, they will be deprived of getting to experience the fairness in competition that boys get to experience,” Monteleone wrote.

She noted a federal lawsuit this month where families of three female high school runners in Connecticut are seeking to block transgender athletes from participating in girls sports.

In the meet at War Memorial Stadium on Friday, the transgender student finished second in the girls 400 meter run.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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