Red Flags Are Flying High In Peoria Unified School District

Red Flags Are Flying High In Peoria Unified School District

By Tiffany Benson |

I’ve looked in the face of many disappointed residents who told me they moved to the West Valley so their children could be educated in Peoria Unified School District (PUSD). To say these families are experiencing buyer’s remorse is an understatement. One wouldn’t have to search beyond PUSD’s current administration to grasp why the district is on a path of destruction.

For readers unaware, PUSD basketball coach and volunteer teacher Patrick Battillo—better known by his fanatic alter ego, Mr. ORNG—was recently arrested on allegations of soliciting lewd photos and videos from students with intentions to sell the images. Teacher Holly Holgate further betrayed the victims by tipping off Battillo after they came to her for help. Battillo, who pleaded not guilty to luring a minor for sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, was reportedly employed by PUSD for five years. Holgate, who’s charged with hindering prosecution and failure to report child abuse, has been employed for over 20 years.

Although the PUSD Governing Board voted unanimously to fire Battillo during the April 25, 2024, board meeting, it’s hard to imagine this wasn’t solely in response to public pressure. I say this because the NAACP descended upon PUSD at the April 11 board meeting. Not to mention press organizations have been crawling all over the district since Battillo and Holgate made headlines.

It’s no secret that Battillo replaced former employee William Roberts III, who was also charged with and pleaded not guilty to sex crimes against PUSD students. Unlike Battillo, Roberts was allowed to resign amid the controversy. Then, Roberts was acquitted after claiming he only had sex with a student after their 18th birthday. Battillo’s victims are said to be 17 and under. What are the odds that two men, who occupied the same role, were accused of sexually abusing students?

Board Member Heather Rooks formally apologized to the victims and their families. She also requested (but was not seconded) to have a closed discussion on why the principal of Peoria High School—where Battillo and Holgate worked—was quietly placed on paid administrative leave following the incident. Could it be PUSD is looking for someone to blame instead of owning its repeated failures to protect students from pedophiles on their payroll? Seriously, how many staff members knew something was “off” about Battillo, Holgate, and Roberts but an investigation was never launched? And where is the district sourcing its pool of applicants anyway?

Another red flag was raised when acting superintendent Kevin Molino unveiled 3D sketches of bathroom remodels for Cactus High School and Ironwood High School. Where there were once doors, there are no doors. Where there was once privacy, there is less privacy. Where there was once a clear distinction of boys’ and girls’ spaces, the district has revealed phase one compliance with the Biden administration’s illegal Title IX rewrite and the corrupt Ninth Circuit ruling.

Now you see doors:

PUSD current bathroom design

Now you don’t:

Did you catch that urinals were removed from the boys’ bathrooms? Unless you’re going to allow girls inside, why would you eliminate that feature? There are also oversized service closets where a single-use bathroom should be, specifically for students who reject binary reality.  In order to uphold the Department of Education’s erroneous interpretation of “sex” to mean “gender identity,” I wouldn’t be surprised if PUSD secretly plans to replace urinals with Tampon dispensers.

In PUSD’s current climate of sexual abuse, administrators are smart enough to sidestep any discussion on the dangers of transgender practices that leave female students vulnerable. So, the district’s official position is that the restrooms are being updated for “increased ADA accessibility” and “increased visibility and monitoring.”

During the April 25 board meeting, there was much talk about bullying, vaping, drugs, and fighting that allegedly reinforced the need for less privacy in school bathrooms. When I suggested disciplining problematic students before they enter closed spaces, Board Member Bill Sorenson said he didn’t agree with “targeting” students who are known to have behavior issues. This is typical, passive, “social emotional” language from Sorenson…whenever he cares to comment.

So, rather than enforce proper codes of conduct, the district’s solution is to have adults watch students go to the bathroom from the hallway. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then you simply don’t know how to think like a leftist.

After attending the Listen, Learn & Lead event for the incoming superintendent, I was further convinced of how expendable PUSD constituents are to the district. During the breakout session, my table had the pleasure of hosting the presence of Chief Personnel Officer Laura Vesely. I held my tongue and conversations were all polite until a resident asked why “Community” was at the top of Molino’s updated organization chart, when it’s obvious the district doesn’t acknowledge concerns from the majority of the community.

Vesely said that “Community” was only at the top because they elect governing board members. Essentially, no other community input is required to run a school district. Consequently, when the same resident asked about Title IX compliance—and I finally spoke up to clarify that “sex” means biology, not gender identity—Vesely quickly shut down the conversation, stating that she, and the public relations representative at the table, weren’t responsible for answering those questions.

Well, I suppose PUSD constituents should just be grateful that rogue, unelected administrators are even letting them in on the discussion. Bless the voters’ hearts.

The last red flag I’ll mention is the district’s prejudice against Christians. Not only was Board Member Rooks censured for reading Scripture during her board comments, Board Member David Sandoval is inclined to outright discriminate against Christian students. Just like the extremists in a neighboring district, PUSD has shown a willingness to violate the First Amendment and, now, the 1984 Equal Access Act, which grants students (of any faith) the right to exercise religious freedoms on school campuses.

Sandoval’s statements were made during a podcast hosted by secularist Jeanne Casteen, who’s engaged in an imaginary fight against “the growing threat of white Christian nationalism in our state and our country.” Casteen is concerned about tax dollars funding religion in public schools. Notably, Christianity was the only objectionable religion throughout the discussion.

By Sandoval’s and Casteen’s logic, all government institutions that teach secular humanistic doctrines—such as evolution, climate change, and social justice—should be defunded. And perhaps Casteen is ignorant of the fact that her godless religion is protected under the First Amendment, and her belief system currently dominates every sphere of public education.

I’m glad to hear students are leaving PUSD. I hope enrollment continues to decrease as families take advantage of every opportunity to exercise their rights. As for the parents who can’t or won’t utilize alternative education, you need to show up for more than sporting events. The board members you elected, and the advocates you see in the boardroom and hear on the microphone every two weeks, are burning out fighting for your children.

Public education will never “get better.” I encourage every conservative, independent, and common-sense parent and teacher to find their voice, speak up, and take action before it’s too late.

Tiffany is the Founder of Restore Parental Rights in Education, a grassroots advocate for families, educators, and school board members. For nearly two decades, Tiffany’s creative writing pursuits have surpassed most interests as she continues to contribute to her blog Bigviewsmallwindow.com. She encourages everyday citizens to take an active role in defending and preserving American values for future generations.

The Arizona Republic’s Hit Piece Against Me Pushed Transgenderism In K-12 Education

The Arizona Republic’s Hit Piece Against Me Pushed Transgenderism In K-12 Education

By Tiffany Benson |

Residents in Arizona public school districts are engaged in a spiritual and moral battle. Some are determined to advance an insidious LGBT agenda, but I choose to fight on the side of God and those who love children. So, when left-wing journalist Richard Ruelas published this sleazy article, I felt it was my duty as a truth-teller to respond in earnest.

First, I’ll clarify for equity cheerleader Ruelas that I didn’t coin the expression “pedophiles by proxy” during the Higley Unified School District (HUSD) board meeting. I initially used the phrase while exposing the shenanigans of Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) Board President David Sandoval and Board Members Bill Sorensen and Melissa Ewing, who refused to read a physical privacy policy. The trio also failed to properly handle community concerns when public records revealed a district attorney advised Executive Director of Education, Christina Lopezlira, to inform administrators of “emerging practices for supporting transgender students,” and to “amicably address the competing interests and rights” of parents who object.

During the Title IX presentation on March 9, 2023, PUSD legal advisor, Lisa Anne Smith, confessed that SCOTUS (still) has not ruled on any case that permits or mandates biological boys and girls to share private spaces at school. This fact was reiterated by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

Furthermore, HUSD Board President Tiffany Shultz and Board Member Amanda Wade mocked a proposal for an enhanced dress code, agreeing that it would “sexualize students’ bodies.” Shultz and Wade also agreed that educators’ attempts to regulate indecent and disruptive clothing was a “waste of time.” Wade even advocated for removing the word “immoral” from policies that govern electronic communications between students and district employees. It’s absurd how public servants dismiss concerns from parents and teachers who want to protect children.

To recap: In blatant disregard for students’ physical safety, Shultz, Wade, and HUSD Board Member Kristina Reese voted to adopt a less strict dress code. Sandoval, Sorensen, and Ewing voted—not once but twice—in favor of allowing all students to share private spaces without parental knowledge or consent.

So, what does this make them?

Reading Ruelas’ junk mail reminded me of my conversation with Liberty Elementary School District (LESD) Board President Michael Todd. He told me the conservative majority board was “trying to clean house” and that I was “late reporting” on his cross-dressing colleague, Paul Bixler. At this point, Bixler had served on the board two years, had already achieved state-level exposure during a House Education Committee meeting and was trending nationally after invading a female locker room. Todd assured me, “I’ve not ever seen Paul go into a women’s restroom on school grounds. Did I see him go into one at a hotel at a conference, yes I did…but that’s not at our schools.” Hmm…I guess I’ll never know (or care) what spooked Mr. Todd. Suffice to say, it was highly suspicious and unprofessional when this duly elected official threatened to resign over a belated news story.

The Ruelas article also sparked frustrations over responses from Chandler Unified School District Board Member Kurt Rohrs. Parents I spoke with said his position on allowing male and female students to share private spaces is unclear. Ruelas claims Rohrs said “he would not ask the board to enact a [bathroom] policy because it would violate federal law,” and that “the discussion about the issue isn’t rooted in fact.” Rohrs is quoted directly stating, “‘Parents are reacting this way because they are fearful. It’s clearly not rational. It’s emotional.’” At a glance, Rohrs’ comments come across dismissive and calloused. But keep in mind that Ruelas is a pretentious jester on a mission to distract everyone from the severe consequences of transgender ideology.

What happened twice in Loudoun County is a fact. What happened in Appomattox County is a fact. What happened in Vermont is a fact. What happened in Oklahoma is a fact. What happened in New Mexico is a fact. What happened in California is a fact. What’s happening in Arizona is a fact. So, I’d say irrational describes the diabolic social experiment that’s been deployed against America’s youth. And I’d say, if your kids are exposed to or assaulted by a member of the opposite sex on school grounds, you should be emotional about it! Ring every district phone, fill every inbox, darken every doorway, occupy every board meeting, alert the media, pull your kids out, sue that government-funded hotbed. Somebody is bound to get the message.

In general, board members looking for “middle ground” on school bathrooms are in for a turbulent 2024. When it comes to the safety and innocence of children, I implore you not to run as a conservative if you’re going to govern like a moderate. Your credibility will be shot, and your career will end in disgrace. There’s no such thing as moderate morality. You either have dignity and common sense, or you want boys and girls to share private spaces at school. You either believe parents have rights in public education, or you’re pro-government. You’ve either read the Title IX transcript and know that the corrupt Ninth Circuit ruling needs to be overturned, or you’re not up for the fight.

Of course, fiscal responsibility, increasing enrollments, and improving test scores are important. But these are not primary concerns for most parents. Preventing rape, violent assaults, hypersexualized curriculum, secret teacher-student relationships, and other exploitive behaviors are the leading issues in education right now. If these matters directly affect your district but you’re not in the majority (or you have a dissenting opinion), the best you can do is make coherent public comments, introduce constitutional policies, and cast votes that convey logical consistency to your constituents.

The worst you can do is entrust the verity of your statements to a narrative pirate like Richard Ruelas.

I want to highlight the passion and prowess of one board member who persisted in taking corrupt colleagues and administrators to task for their reckless policies and predatory practices. On November 21, 2023, America First Legal (AFL) announced that Mesa Public Schools (MPS) Board Member Rachel Walden is suing her district. The Arizona Sun Times reported that AFL “is representing Walden in her Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit against [MPS] and Superintendent Andi Fourlis, which alleges they schemed to circumvent the Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights after the community learned it was blocking parental notifications.” The MPS transgender support plan—adopted in 2015 without parental knowledge or consent—is dangerous, unlawful, and immoral. To grasp how radical MPS has become, read the Sun Times article alongside Walden’s opinion editorial and Mesa school board candidate Ed Steele’s analysis.

Using public education to push transgenderism on children is pure evil. Discussions on human sexuality are the primary responsibility of parents, not the government. Swapping clothes and pronouns, taking puberty blockers, and undergoing sex reassignment surgeries does not change the biblical, biological, and binary reality that dysphoric people are trying to escape. Moreover, unrestricted access to private spaces with members of the opposite sex is not a prescription for gender confusion. And pretending to be something you’re not will never cure suicidal ideations. Despite the U.S. Department of Education’s misinterpretation of the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia case, and their ludicrous Title IX amendment proposal, forcing male and female students to share bathrooms is not the law of the land.

Parents, when hardened LGBT activists say they’re coming for your children, believe them. Invest time researching this issue and avoid gaslighting anecdotes like those propagated by the Arizona Republic. Before you openly chastise any board member, make sure you have sound knowledge and understanding of the Constitution, state laws, and district policies. Let’s continue to stand up together and push back against this present darkness.

I’ll see you in the boardrooms.

For nearly two decades, Tiffany Benson’s creative writing pursuits have surpassed all other interests. When she’s not investigating Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theories, she enjoys journaling and contributing to her blog Bigviewsmallwindow.com. She encourages average citizens to take on an active role in the grassroots fight for future generations.

Arizona Superintendent: Title IX Doesn’t Force Schools To Obey Gender Ideology 

Arizona Superintendent: Title IX Doesn’t Force Schools To Obey Gender Ideology 

By Corinne Murdock |  

Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne advised the K-12 community that Title IX doesn’t have any language forcing schools to obey gender ideology concerning policy on restroom, locker room, and shower facility usage.  

The superintendent issued the remarks on Thursday in a brief guidance memo from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). Horne explained that the current Title IX law only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity. The Biden administration proposed a rule change to Title IX in 2021 that would expand the longstanding 1972 definition to include gender identity and sexual orientation, followed by a formal proposal by the Education Department last year, but that rule change has not yet been put into effect.   

“Under the current Title IX, there is no language that compels schools to permit biological boys to use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms or shower areas,” stated Horne. “The Biden administration has proposed changes to Title IX that might allow for this, but this proposal has no force of law until it is ruled on by the courts, which has not occurred.” 

The Biden administration announced it would publish the final Title IX rule in October.   

ADE advised schools to not implement policy allowing gender identity to dictate restroom, locker room, or shower facility access, mainly referring to the ability for males to access traditionally female spaces. ADE warned that males could still be held accountable for impropriety, regardless of ideology.   

“Biological boys who expose themselves to girls could be violating indecent exposure laws and subject to arrest,” said ADE. “Schools can provide separate facilities — even small ones that are open to either gender — that meet the needs of transgender students without compromising the dignity of others.”   

Horne explained further that he’s received numerous complaints from parents about schools permitting biological males to use private facilities intended originally and exclusively for females. Upset parents have reportedly told Horne they may leave schools permissive of gender ideologies. Rather than dissuade this type of thinking, Horne encouraged parents to exercise their right of school choice, possible through the universalized Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program.

“[T]hey are considering removing their daughter from schools that allow this,” said Horne. “In Arizona, they certainly have multiple school options from which to choose.”

State Rep. Nancy Gutierrez (D-LD18), minority whip, said the guidance was “dangerous” and violates federal law.

In June, the Ninth District Circuit Court ruled that discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation qualifies as sex-based discrimination under Title IX.   

Title IX affects more than just bathroom, locker room, and shower area usage. It also applies to sports, something which progressive activists are also fighting to reform. Two families sued the state over its law banning biological boys from competing in girls’ sports.   

Horne took up the case.

Despite the legal battles over Title IX not yet settled, Arizona’s K-12 public school boards have been taking initiative by adopting policy that would align with the expanded Biden administration version of Title IX. Last September, for example, one of the state’s top charter school chains, Legacy Traditional Schools, permitted gender identity to dictate bathroom usage. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona Superintendent: Title IX Doesn’t Force Schools To Obey Gender Ideology 

Arizona’s Top Charter Schools Allowing Boys Into Girls’ Bathrooms, Parents Not Notified

By Corinne Murdock |

One of Arizona’s top charter school chains, Legacy Traditional Schools (LTS), began allowing boys into girls’ bathrooms this semester under its new “Title IX Gender Identity Policy” — and didn’t notify parents. 

AZ Free News spoke to some of the families impacted: several said they’ve pulled their children out of safety concerns, while others are seeking accommodations. Despite the ongoing controversy over their updated policy to accommodate gender identity, LTS canceled its August 25 board meeting. They claimed that there was “no new business requiring board attention.”

Vertex Education, the education management company behind LTS, discussed and shared their updated Title IX policy with AZ Free News. It appears from what Vertex Education spokesman Sean Amir shared that LTS made the policy change to align with anticipated changes to Title IX under the Biden administration. Amir added that LTS didn’t include their new Title IX Gender Identity Policy in their parent handbook because it was part of their internal documents.

“As a public charter school, Legacy must abide by all state and federal laws. Likewise, it does not discriminate against any student. Our notice of non-discrimination in the Parent/Student Handbook (page 38) is available on our website, and provides the federal statement as mandated by law,” wrote Amir. “The school’s internal documents describe how to carry out what Title IX sets forth, and are made available upon request.”

Vertex Education didn’t answer our questions about the lack of notification to parents about the policy update, nor did they answer as to whether community backlash prompted LTS to cancel its last board meeting. 

The company also didn’t answer whether their leadership discussed the high school sexual assault that made international headlines last fall and moved deep-blue Virginia to vote for a Republican governor for the first time in nearly a decade. In that case, a high school boy wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a freshman girl in the girls’ bathroom.

One LTS mother, Jennifer Leslie, shared with AZ Free News that they learned about LTS’ gender identity policy the week of August 2, when school started. Another parent’s child reportedly came home saying that a middle-school boy attended school dressed up as a girl and wearing a wig, and that he was uncomfortable with what he saw.

“They normally blast out so many emails about changes. Not once was this mentioned,” said Leslie. “It’s just disheartening. I don’t have a better way to explain it. I just wish there was more transparency. They could’ve handled this so much better.”

According to Leslie, LTS claimed that the gender identity policy has been in place since 2015. The Google Doc version of the policy we reviewed, supplied by Vertex Education, was created July 28. The company’s spokesman also didn’t mention the age of the policy. Leslie also shared that many LTS staff were unaware of the policy’s existence.

In addition to allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for the opposite sex, the LTS gender identity policy directs parents to coordinate a gender transition plan with their school principal and administrators. 

As part of this plan, students may adhere to the opposite sex’s dress code, staff must use the student’s preferred names and pronouns, students may participate in sports designated for the opposite sex (unless prohibited by the Canyon Athletic Association), and staff may communicate a student’s gender transition to other students. However, LTS won’t voluntarily disclose to families whether any of their children’s peers are transitioning genders.

Leslie noted that she pulled her two children from LTS due to the policy and the administration’s subsequent unwillingness to accommodate them. Leslie described the ordeal as overwhelming.

“They were not very receptive at all. We first asked for our girls to use a single user restroom. We asked if they could use a health restroom. They said no, that is for children with special needs or kids who have a 504 plan,” shared Leslie. “The only option was, the girls had to use the bathroom with the other individual who is transitioning into a girl and allow him into that same bathroom. All kids deserve safety. The concern is boys being in the girls’ bathroom.”

Leslie said that her children miss their friends, having attended LTS since kindergarten, but that the change was for the best. While her eldest was admitted into another school, the youngest is on a waitlist and attending an online program.

“It’s disheartening and disappointing,” said Leslie. “It’s not even the teachers [who are to blame], it’s not even the administration. It’s the managing company of Legacy Traditional Schools, which is Vertex Education.”

Another mother, Diana Fitzgerald, shared that she also learned about the policy change from another parent and not LTS. Fitzgerald’s child attends a different campus from where the incident occurred.

Fitzgerald said the new policy alarmed her, prompting her to request an accommodation for a single-stall restroom. Since parents may never be informed about the presence of a transgender student on campus, Fitzgerald secured a precaution for her daughter. She said the whole ordeal was a disheartening travesty. 

“I’m concerned about the gender identity issue. It does create a head-on collision with parental rights. I’m grateful I was made aware of this,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s all any parent wants is transparency so they can feel safe that their children are in a healthy learning environment.”

Another longtime LTS mother, Jacqueline Parker, said that she also pulled her three children from their schools over the policy. She said that the concerns posed by her and others over the new policy were largely dismissed by LTS, which she said was “extremely frustrating” and caused her to believe that her family was nothing more than a dollar sign for funding.

Though it’s been over a month, Parker informed AZ Free News that LTS still hadn’t supplied a copy of the gender identity policy to her.

“Multiple parents have emailed the district office to get clarification on how each campus is to handle this situation. The verdict is that our children would be the ones singled out, by us as parents filling out a form to allow them to use a grown-up bathroom,” said Parker.

Parker shared that LTS sent out multiple emails for a variety of other topics, such as COVID-19 mitigation plans and a new math curriculum, but chose not to disclose its gender identity policy.

“The safety of our children has been put in jeopardy and there was not one email or communication of any sort to inform parents of such a big change. The lack of transparency about this policy is unacceptable,” said Parker. “Not only were we concerned about the safety of our children but also truly disheartened that Legacy, whom we held to such high standards of morals and values, would conform to such an unconservative policy.”

Since its inception in 1972, Title IX protections prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. In July, the Department of Education (DOE) notified Americans that it would extend Title IX protections to ban discriminations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The deadline for public comment on the potential new Title IX protections is next Monday, September 12. As of press time, there were over 152,900 comments on the proposed changes, with just over 48,000 available for review. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

University of Arizona Swim Teams, Coaches Criticize NCAA Over Lia Thomas

University of Arizona Swim Teams, Coaches Criticize NCAA Over Lia Thomas

By Corinne Murdock |

In a joint letter last week to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), University of Arizona (UArizona) current and alumnae swimmers and coaches criticized the decision to allow transgender University of Pennsylvania (Penn) swimmer Lia (née William) Thomas to compete in the Division 1 national championships. The UArizona group asserted that the NCAA “failed everyone” by trying to “appease everyone,” insisting that Thomas worked against the equality of women in sports enshrined by Title IX.

“We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year. From the birth of the NCAA in 1906 until 1972, women had to fight to earn the law that provided equal opportunities for women in sports. It took a male to female transgender person one year to take the women’s swimming national championship title,” wrote the group. “This is not equality. Women’s standings, titles, records, and scholarships are suddenly at risk again. Opening the door to allowing natural born men to acquire precious, life altering financial aid packages often split up between multiple women per team defeats the very essence of the flagship legislation we are ironically celebrating this very year.”

The swimmers and coaches also noted that the UArizona Athletics Director, Associate AD for Diversity, and Senior Women’s Advocate remained silent on the issue of transgender women — men — in women’s sports.

Thomas won the 500 freestyle race, but lost in the 200 and 100 freestyle races; however, Thomas reportedly has lost races intentionally in the recent past. Teammates who reported his intentional losses claimed that he was trying to prove that males don’t have biological advantages to females, observing that it was clear Thomas wasn’t trying. They speculated that Thomas colluded with a transgender male swimmer from Yale University, Iszac Henig, so Henig would beat Thomas and make it appear as though women could outperform men. 

“Looking at [Thomas’] time, I don’t think [Thomas] was trying,” the Penn swimmer alleges. “I know [Thomas and Henig are] friends and I know they were talking before the meet. I think [Thomas] let her win to prove the point that, ‘Oh see, a female-to-male beat me.’”

The UArizona swimmers credited their decision to submit their letter based on a letter submitted by University of Texas (UT) alumnae and coaches a week prior. Among those on the UT letter were Olympians and UT Hall of Honor inductees, as well as pro golfer and UT Hall of Honor inductee Cindy Figg-Currier. 

The letter, first published in Swimming World Magazine, is reproduced in full below:

Dear NCAA Board of Governors,

Do we have a voice?

It’s hard to express the anguish the women’s swim community has experienced this past week watching the 2022 NCAA Swim & Dive Championships. On one hand, we feel we are witnessing irrevocable damage to a sport that has transformed our own identities for the better. On the other, we have reconnected with each other in sisterhood after many busy years living our lives beyond the water’s edge. We are grateful for the many women who have stood up to publicly speak up in protest of your policies including UT’s swim alumni who penned a thoughtful letter to their Athletic Director and inspired us to write from the University of Arizona alumni perspective. We have collected some of our own thoughts on paper to plead to swimming leadership at every level to take immediate action to protect our women athletes.

In 2008, USA Swimming chief Chuck Wielgus was asked to comment on a “culture of fair play” regarding a female swimmer who had tested positive for a banned anabolic agent called Clenbuterol. He claimed at the time “within the culture of swimming, if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, we want to catch you and throw you out of the sport. In other sports, it’s about excuses and justifications and being innocent until you’re proven guilty.” According to the USADA website, Clenbuterol is prohibited in sport because it “promotes muscle growth through anabolic properties.” The Mayo Clinic reports “the main anabolic steroid hormone produced by the body is testosterone” and that it “has anabolic effects promoting muscle building.” In a little over a decade, USA Swimming, the leading organization of swimming in the world has surrendered its firm stance on fair play. This has encouraged other organizations such as the NCAA to make accommodations for biological men who have had the benefits of testosterone throughout natural development and beyond.

According to Duke’s Center for Sports Law and Policy, “there is an average 10-12% performance gap between elite males and elite females” in sport. What advantage does testosterone have for natural born men in swimming specifically? This year in the 500 freestyle the men’s A standard qualifying time is 4:11.62. The women’s A standard qualifying time was 4:35.76. That is a difference of 24.14 seconds. To put that into perspective, the male swimmer in the last seed going into the meet would be two full laps ahead of his female counterpart in this event. This one example alone demonstrates the advantages a biologically male swimmer has over a female. Physiological advantages exist.

Looking back on another moment in swim history, in 2010 FINA banned the use of high tech performance swim suits as the “shiny suit era” saw “records falling at an alarming rate” due to a competitive advantage given to swimmers who had the suits available to them. This year at the fastest short course swim meet in the world, the body inside the suit is what raises cause for concern.

The decisions of the NCAA this year hoped to appease everyone by allowing Lia Thomas to compete directly with women. Instead, the NCAA has successfully failed everyone. A target was placed on the back of a trans athlete subjecting this person to devastating national outcry and humiliation. This swimmer’s lone points for Penn this March catapulted a team to a top-20 program in the country after failing to score a single point last year. Additionally, women athletes competing in the meet were forced to swim in unfair direct competition therefore eliminating all integrity of the entire championship meet.

We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year. From the birth of the NCAA in 1906 until 1972, women had to fight to earn the law that provided equal opportunities for women in sports. It took a male to female transgender person one year to take the women’s swimming national championship title. This is not equality. Women’s standings, titles, records, and scholarships are suddenly at risk again. Opening the door to allowing natural born men to acquire precious, life altering financial aid packages often split up between multiple women per team defeats the very essence of the flagship legislation we are ironically celebrating this very year.

Female to male transgender athletes do not have the same opportunities as their male to female counterparts. They are heavily disadvantaged when it comes to earning a spot on the team they identify due to strength and speed differences between gender categories. This was represented this year in the 100 freestyle by Yale’s Iszac Henig, a transgender male competing at the women’s championship. This swimmer placed fifth in the event. Henig’s time of 47.52 earned the swimmer an All-American award and added 13.5 points to Yale’s team score. Had Henig chosen to swim at the men’s competition however, the same time would have failed to even reach the men’s A qualifying time of 41.71 by almost six seconds dashing the whisper of a chance this swimmer would even step up to the block.

There were many options the NCAA could have implemented to create a fair environment for women competitors. A trans athlete could compete in the meet that aligns with birth gender such as Henig did. At the championship level, there are 10 lanes available in the pool while only 8 swimmers compete per heat. Therefore, a trans athlete could have been added to any finals heat in addition to the 16 women who qualified without pushing any of the deserving women out of the finals such as VT’s Reka Gyorgy , who personally spoke out about the inequality she was subjected to being shut out of the finals. Trans specific heats with separate awards categories and scoring was another alternative. The NCAA could have implemented the more stringent USA Swimming guidelines at the very least. Moving forward, trans swim meets could be organized and built into a new category of athletic competition similar to the Paralympic or Special Olympic platforms to continue to widen the umbrella of inclusion in athletics.

We are writing this letter to the NCAA who has a President at the helm responsible for cutting both the University of Washington’s swimming programs in 2009. Mr. Emmert stood firmly by his decisions as “the right ones for us.” The NCAA Board of Governors is predominantly men. Of the 65 Athletic Directors in the Power 5, only 5 are women. At the University of Arizona, our Athletics Director, Associate AD for Diversity, and Senior Women’s Advocate have remained silent on this issue unfolding over the course of this entire season. These revelations and disparities alarm us when it seems there was no urgency in skillfully and educationally addressing how the scientific and biologic differences may impact women’s competitions. Do we have a voice? The people responsible for protecting women’s swimming should swiftly rectify the guidelines. The women from the University of Arizona will not quietly stand down while our victories and accomplishments float away.

We are eager and willing to discuss directly with the NCAA potential steps it can implement to create new solutions for the expanding athletic family. Please contact us with your next steps towards a fairer future.

Respectfully,

The Women of Arizona Swimming & Diving

info@womenfins.com

Marshi Smith (02-06) NCAA Champion

Frank Busch 6-Time NCAA Coach of the Year for the University of Arizona (11-17) USA Swimming National Team Director

2008 National Championship Team Members:

Lacey Nymeyer-John (04-08) NCAA Woman of the Year, NCAA Champion, Olympic Medalist

Brandy Collins Maben (04-08) Team Captain

Lindsey Kelly (05-09) NCAA All-American

Taylor Baughman (05-09) NCAA All-American, Team Captain

Caroline Rollins (05-09) Team Manager

Lara Jackson (06-09) NCAA Champion, American Record Holder

Annie Chandler (06-10) NCAA Woman of the Year Finalist

Caitlin Iversen (06-10) NCAA All-American

Carley Beaudreau (06-10) NCAA All-American

Dana Christ (07-11) NCAA All-American

Susana Starbuck (07-11) Team Captain

Lindsey Farella (97-02) NCAA Champion, Team Captain

Julie Manitt Andrew (99-03) NCAA All-American

Jenna Gresdal Davis (02-06) Olympian, NCAA Champion

Lisa Pursley Ebeling (02-06) NCAA All-American, Current Head Coach UNC

Katie Willis (02-06) NCAA All-American

Ryann Hackett (02-06) NCAA All-American Honorable Mention

Danielle Erickson (05-06) Big-12 Conference Finalist (Nebraska)

Emily Strouse (03-07) Olympic Trial Qualifier, Pac-10 Team Champion

Kathryn Elofson (03-07) Pac-10 Champion

Whitney Myers (03-07) NCAA Woman of the Year, 5x NCAA Champion

Julie Stupp (08-09) NCAA Runner up, 2x Team Champion (Auburn)

Grace Kittle (07-12) NCAA All-American

Andrea Smith (08-13) Team Manager

Monica Refsnyder (09-13) NCAA All-American, American Record Holder

Ellyn Baumgardner (09-13) NCAA All-American, Team Captain

Aubrey Peacock (10-12) NCAA All-American

Megan Lafferty (12-13) American Record Holder, Pac-12 Champion

Alana Pazevic (12-14) NCAA All-American, Pac-12 Champion

Elizabeth Pepper (13-15) NCAA All-American

Bonnie Brandon (12-16) NCAA All-American

Emma Schoettmer (12-16) NCAA All-American

Alexandra Martelle (14-18) Pac-12 Finalist

Mackenzie Rumrill (15-19) NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee, NCAA All-American

Mallory Korenwinder (16-20) NCAA All-American

Dennis Pursley (89-03) USA Swimming Team Director 5x Olympic Coach, ASCA Hall of Fame Inductee

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.