A New Hampshire high school student who was punished by his school for allegedly saying there "are only two genders" has sued the school district and its vice principal.
The student and his mother filed a state lawsuit this month against Exeter High School and Vice Principal Marcy Dovholuk after he was suspended for one football game for stating his beliefs about gender in a text message to a classmate. That message was then given to Dovholuk.
New Hampshire Cornerstone Action is representing Dovholuk, alleging his rights as a Catholic under the state Constitution were violated. The text message occurred outside of school time.
"These prohibitions restrict the expression of a particular opinion and are not supported by any material or substantial disruption to school operations," the lawsuit says. "Regardless of what defendants may think about these words, [the student now suing the school] did not use profane or insulting language towards any person while in the school building, on a school bus, during school activities, or on school property in any of the events leading up to his athletic suspension and this case."
The district has a Gender Nonconforming Students policy that says a student "has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student's gender identity."
According to the lawsuit, the controversy began in a Spanish class when a classmate who identifies as non-binary expressed a preference to the teacher for plural pronouns, SeacoastOnline.com reported. The boy who filed the suit did not have any interaction with the student.
Later, on the school bus, students began discussing the difficulty of using Spanish pronouns for individuals who identify as non-binary.
A female student spoke up and said, "There's more than two genders," according to the suit. The boy in the lawsuit responded, "No, there isn't: there's only two genders."
The two later had a text exchange about the issue.
"[The female student] pressed [the student suing the school] on the topic of gender, demanding, 'Give me one valid reason why there's only two genders,'" the lawsuit states. "The two then had a contentious exchange of texts on the issue."
That female student then turned the texts over to the vice principal, who, along with the football coach, allegedly told him he was "not respecting pronouns" and that he needed to "respect how people identify." The boy is a freshman.
"[The student] does not deny that he violated the Gender Nonconforming Students policy," the lawsuit says. "He in fact denied, and will continue to deny, that any person can belong to a gender other than that of 'male' or 'female.'… [The student] will never refer to any individual person using plural pronouns such as 'they,' using contrived pronouns such as 'ze,' or with any similar terminology that reflects values which [the student] does not share," the lawsuit asserts.
The boy's mother defended her son.
"When I saw the text messages, I agreed with my son," she told Fox News. "All he did was state an opinion. I defended him on the phone to the vice principal and said, 'He has a right to his opinion.'"
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jena Ardell
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.