Vermont family sues after trans student punished in girls’ locker room

A Vermont coach and his daughter are suing school officials after being reprimanded for using male pronouns to describe a transgender student in the girls’ locker room, claiming their First Amendment rights were violated.

Travis Allen and his 14-year-old daughter, Blake Allen, are suing Orange Southwest School District officials after he was fired as a football coach and she was suspended from extracurricular activities for “harassing the basis of gender identity.” – it is said in complaint.

Philip A. Sechler, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement Friday that “we will be asking the court to quickly stop the school’s flagrant violation of Blake and Travis’ free speech rights.”

“The father and his daughter’s concern that the school allowing a male student to enter a high school locker room where girls are undressing is entirely expected and appropriate, regardless of whether the male identifies as female,” Mr. Sechler said. “However, for expressing such a reasonable opinion and noting that the student was male, the Vermont school authorities punished Blake and Travis to silence their views.”

The district issued a statement Friday calling the lawsuit “truly unfortunate” and asserting that the school system “follows Vermont law and Vermont Education Agency guidelines.”

“RUHS and the Orange Southwest Unified Union School District are proud to support our trans students and enforce our legally mandated policies,” the statement said. “Plaintiffs appear to be arguing that demeaning behavior, taunts, and obscenities directed at RUHS students constitute protected free speech. We do not agree.”

The district also said that “the facts alleged by the plaintiffs are not true. We expect to win the lawsuit.”

Last month, a 14-year-old biological male who identifies as female and plays on the volleyball team walked into the girls’ locker room as the players were changing. Several of the girls, including Blake, became upset, the lawsuit alleges.

The next day, during a classroom discussion of the incident, Blake said the student was “literally a dude” and “doesn’t belong in the girls’ locker room,” prompting a school investigation.

The school informed Blake in an Oct. 21 letter that she was “guilty of harassment and bullying” based on her gender identity and gave her a choice of serving a two-day in-school suspension or participating in a “recovery circle” with an equity coordinator and at least two students .

The goal was to help her “understand the rights of students to access public spaces, such as schools, according to their gender identity and the impact of her behavior. As part of this work, Blake will submit a reflective essay documenting her experiences and the knowledge she has gained,” the letter reads.

The lawsuit also alleges that the transgender student, identified as “TS,” told other students in math class on Sept. 29 that “I’m going to fucking kill Blake Allen,” but no disciplinary action was taken against the student. .

On Oct. 18, Mr. Allen was suspended as the high school’s football coach without pay for a Facebook post in which he “misrepresented a transgender student in our district,” according to a letter from Superintendent Lane Millington.

In a Facebook exchange with the mother of a transgender student, Mr Allen defended his daughter against claims she made up the story to gain attention.

“[T]true, your son watched my daughter and several other girls change in the locker room. While he got a free show, they were being violated,” Mr. Allen said in a post on the local news station’s page. “[Y]You think that’s fine and dandy, I wonder how you would feel if I watched you undress?”

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Vermont. Shortly thereafter, “the school administration’s attorney notified ADF attorneys that the superintendent was withdrawing disciplinary action against Blake,” ADF said.

The Vermont Department of Education says schools must consider many factors regarding the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students, including student preferences and protecting student privacy and safety.

At the same time, “a transgender student shall not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity,” the policy states.

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