A Vermont high school violated the constitutional rights of a student when it suspended her for "misgendering" another student and then pressuring her to change her beliefs by attending a "restorative" session with staff, according to a new federal lawsuit.
The school also suspended the student's father from his coaching position, according to the suit.
The controversy began in September when a biologically male student who identifies as a female entered the locker room as members of the girls' volleyball team were changing clothes. One of the team members was 14-year-old Blake Allen, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The team members had "never been warned of the possibility" of the transgender-identifying student entering the locker room, according to the lawsuit.
Allen was subsequently suspended after she told a classmate that the trans student "literally is a dude" and "does not belong in the girls' locker room."
Allen's father, Travis Allen, was suspended from his position as middle school girls' soccer coach after he told the parent of the trans student on Facebook, "The 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."
Blake Allen was suspended for two days but given the option to "[t]ake part in a restorative circle" with the school's Equality Coordinator and "at least two students who can help her understand the rights of students to access public accommodations ... in a manner consistent with their gender identity," the suit says. Allen would then be required to write a "reflective essay." If the school determined that the essay lacked "good faith," she would be required to serve an additional three days of suspension, according to the lawsuit.
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing the Allens.
"The First Amendment does not countenance this kind of government censorship, where a public school mandates that students and coaches refrain from expressing any view that offends its prescribed views, particularly on an issue as important as whether the school should permit males identifying as girls to undress, shower and change in the girls' locker room," the lawsuit says. "Travis and Blake Allen were entitled to express their views on that issue and, in expressing those views, to support them with what is a biological fact – that a biological teenage male is, indeed, a male. This case presents a textbook example of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tiero
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.