3 Texas groups sign letter demanding NCAA divest from campuses seeking Title IX exemptions

Criswell-College

Criswell College in Dallas is among the institutions to apply for a Title IX exemption.

Fairness Fort Worth, Resource Center and Houston’s  Legacy Center have joined a coalition of more than 80 LGBT sports, religious and youth advocacy groups signed on to a letter issued publicly yesterday (Wednesday, March 9) calling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to divest from all religious-based institutions that have made Title IX waiver requests targeting transgender youth.

In their letter to the organization, which oversees and regulates athletics in higher education, they say the Title IX exemptions contradict the NCAA’s mission.

“Our partners on this open letter agree with the NCAA when it says that, ‘Diversity and inclusion improves the learning environment for all student-athletes, and enhances excellence within the Association.’ It is because we believe diversity and inclusion leads to the best learning environments that we ask NCAA to divest from all religious based campuses who have requested these discriminatory waivers,” the letter reads.

An educational institution run by a religious organization may apply for a Title IX exemption from the Department of Education if it “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

The requests grew in response to the Department of Education decision in 2014 to include transgender students under Title IX protections.

The Title IX waiver allows campus administrators to deny transgender students admission, usage of public accommodations, and protections against anti-LGBT actions from students and faculty.

“Religion-based bigotry is the basis for the vast majority of prejudice and discrimination LGBT people face, especially young people,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and one of the signatories, said in a statement. “The NCAA cannot stand for this outright discrimination among its member institutions and we urge them to take action to ensure an inclusive sports culture that is safe and fair for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

There are currently fifty-nine religious-based colleges and universities on the list, according to Campus Pride’s “Shame List.”

East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton and Howard Payne University in Brownwood are among the 37 campuses who received exemptions. University of Dallas in Irving, Criswell College in Dallas and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene have applied for waivers.

“As people of faith or spirit, we call upon the NCAA to act on its stated values as an LGBTQ inclusive organization and divest from these schools who are willfully and intentionally creating unsafe environments for LGBTQ students,” said Jordyn Sun, national campus organizer at Soulforce. “No athlete should play sports under the specter of fear and discrimination. Instead, these schools should simply follow the law.”

—  James Russell

More Miss. homophobia: ACLU sues school for barring tux-wearing girl’s photo from yearbook

Earlier this year, the ACLU stepped in when a teenage lesbian in Mississippi was told by her school that she couldn’t attend prom with her girlfriend, and the Itawamba County School District eventually agreed to shell out $35,000 to settle the lawsuit brought by Constance McMillen.

Now the ACLU has filed suit against another Mississippi school that refused to include a female student’s name and senior photo in the yearbook because she was wearing a tuxedo. The lawsuit claims Wesson Attendance Center unfairly discriminated against Ceara Sturgis based on her sex and unfair gender stereotypes.

Sturgis attended Wesson from kindergarten through 12th grade. She was an honor student and a member of several sports teams at the school. A press release from the ACLU says nothing about Sturgis’ sexual orientation, but does say that she prefers to wear “clothing that is traditionally associated with boys” both at home and at school.

According to the ACLU press release, Sturgis at first tried to wear the “drape” used in girls’ senior photos to make it look like they are wearing a dress or a blouse, but it made her extremely uncomfortable. So the student got her mother to request that she be allowed to wear a tuxedo for the portrait. And the photographer agreed.

It wasn’t until after the whole picture-taking process was all said and done that the school principal told Sturgis he wouldn’t let the photo be published in the yearbook.

According to Bear Atwood, interim legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, the school’s actions violate Title IX, which bans discrimination based on gender and gender stereotypes in public education. Plus, he said, they were just plain old “mean-spirited.”

—  admin