- The Washington Times
Friday, October 28, 2022

A Vermont coach and his daughter have sued school officials after being rebuked for using male pronouns to describe a male-to-female transgender student in a girls’ locker room, arguing that their First Amendment rights were violated.

Travis Allen and his 14-year-old daughter, Blake Allen, filed the lawsuit against Orange Southwest School District officials after he was suspended from his job as a soccer coach and she was given a since-rescinded out-of-school suspension for “harassment on the basis of gender identity,” according to the complaint.

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

“A father and his daughter voicing concerns about a 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. “Yet for expressing such a common-sense view and noting the fact that the student is a male, Vermont school officials punished Blake and Travis in an effort to silence their views.”

The district released a statement Friday calling the lawsuit “truly unfortunate” and saying that the school system “follows Vermont law and guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education.”

“RUHS and Orange Southwest Unified Union School District are proud to support our trans students and to enforce our legally mandated policies,” said the statement. “The plaintiffs apparently argue that demeaning behaviors, ridicule, and unkindness directed at RUHS students are protected free speech. We disagree.”

The district also said that the “facts asserted by plaintiffs are not accurate. We expect to prevail in the litigation.”

Last month, a 14-year-old biological male who identifies as female and plays on the volleyball team entered the girls’ locker room while players were changing. A number of girls, including Blake, became upset, the lawsuit alleged.

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

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

The goal was to help her “understand both the rights of students to access public accommodations such as schools in a manner consistent with their gender identity and the impact of her behavior. As part of this work, Blake will submit a reflective essay documenting her experience and the learning that she has gained,” the letter said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the transgender student, identified as “T.S.,” told other students on Sept. 29 in math class that “I am going to f—-ing kill Blake Allen,” but that no disciplinary action was taken against the student.

Mr. Allen was suspended without pay Oct. 18 from his job as middle school soccer coach for a Facebook post in which he “misgendered a transgender student in our district,” according to a letter from Superintendent Layne Millington.

In the Facebook exchange with the mother of the transgender student, Mr. Allen defended his daughter against a claim that she made up the story for attention.

“[T]he truth is your son watched my daughter and multiple other girls change in the locker room. While he got a free show, they got violated,” said Mr. Allen in the post on the local news station’s page. “[Y]ou think this is 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 afterward, “counsel for the school officials notified ADF attorneys that the superintendent was rescinding the disciplinary actions against Blake,” said ADF.

The Vermont Department of Education says that schools must consider numerous factors regarding the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students, including the student’s preference and protecting student privacy and safety.

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

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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