Suspended Vermont Student and Coach Father Sue School District for Retaliating After Complaint About Biological Male in Girls’ Locker Room

A Vermont high school volleyball player who was suspended from school and her father, the team’s coach, who was suspended from his job, are suing the school district for retaliating against them following their complaint about the policy that allows biological males in the girls’ team locker room.

Blake Allen, 14, a student at Randolph Union Middle School, and her father, Travis Allen, who coaches his daughter’s volleyball team, spoke out against a biological male, claiming to be female, being allowed in the girls’ team locker room while they were changing. Now, the family is suing the school district after Blake was suspended and Travis was fired from his job, asserting the district retaliated against them, the Daily Signal reported Thursday.

The federal lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court District of Vermont by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), on behalf of the Allen family, names Layne Millington, superintendent of Orange Southwest School District (OSSD), Lisa Floyd and Caty Sutton, co-principals of Randolph Union High School, and the OSSD School Board as defendants.

Travis Allen and his daughter Blake “were punished for expressing their views on a matter of profound public concern: whether a teenage male who identifies as female should be permitted to change in a girls’ locker room regardless of the discomfort experienced by girls in that room,” the complaint states, and adds:

In objecting to a male being in the room while the girls are changing, Travis and Blake each made comments underscoring that the trans-identifying student is in fact a male, including by using male pronouns. Indeed, their view of the student’s maleness was foundational to their opinions on appropriate use of the locker room. Yet, their remarks were too much for Defendants’ transgender orthodoxy – Travis was deemed to have “misgendered” the student, while Blake was found guilty of “harassment” and “bullying” – so Defendants disciplined both of them.

The lawsuit goes on to allege the defendants “violate the First Amendment when they attempt to dictate what may be said on matters of public concern.”

“And they cannot discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint,” the complaint states. “Yet, that is exactly what happened here. Defendants punished Travis and Blake for saying that a male is a male, as a matter of sex and biology, regardless of the gender identity that the male has assumed.”

ADF Senior Counsel Philip A. Sechler said Friday in a statement regarding the Blakes’ lawsuit:

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. Yet for expressing such a commonsense 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 First Amendment protects everyone’s right to freely share their beliefs, and we will be asking the court to swiftly halt the school’s blatant violation of Blake and Travis’ free speech rights.

A WCAX 3 News report at the end of September noted that school officials banned the girls’ volleyball team from their locker room based on Vermont’s policy that states transgender athletes may participate on sports teams and use the private facilities consistent with their chosen gender.

According to the lawsuit, when Blake expressed her views that the transgender student “literally is a dude” and that “he does not belong in the girls’ locker room,” school officials “took disciplinary action against Blake, finding that her reference to [the male student] as a male constituted ‘harassment on the basis of gender identity.’”

“But punishing Blake for expressing a dissident view was not enough,” the complaint alleges. “Defendants also seek to coerce her to agree with their transgender dogma. In addition to giving Blake two days’ out-of-school suspension, Defendants are requiring her to ‘[t]ake part in a restorative circle with … our Equity 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,’ and ‘submit a reflective essay.’”

“Defendants intend to render their own judgment on this reflective essay; and if they deem it ‘lacking good faith,’ Blake will be required to serve an additional three days’ out-of-school suspension,” the lawsuit asserts. “Meanwhile, Defendants took no action at all against [the male student] who said, during math class the week after entering the girls’ locker room, ‘I’m going to fk**ing kill Blake Allen.’”

ADF reported the school lifted Blake’s suspension after the lawsuit was filed, though it was unclear whether school officials were aware of the lawsuit when the suspension was lifted.

As the Signal reported, several of Blake Allen’s fellow female teammates said they also asked the male student to leave the locker room, but that he did not immediately do so. The girls said the male student stood in the corner of the locker room and watched them while they were undressing, leading them to feel uncomfortable.

“The trans-identifying student’s guardian told The Daily Signal that her child is a girl, belongs in girls’ spaces, and did not behave inappropriately,” the Signal reported.

“A male was in our locker room when volleyball girls were trying to get changed,” Blake also told the Signal. “And after I asked him to leave, he didn’t, and later looked over at girls with their shirts off. And it made many people uncomfortable and feel violated. And I left as soon as I could in a panic.”

“It’s not fully the trans student’s fault,” Blake said. “It is much more the school board’s fault and they’re failing everyone. Not just the volleyball team, not the transgender student. They did nothing to help this situation. They still aren’t. They just want people to be in trouble and they’re not trying to help make a change.”

Last week, the Signal reported the same school’s volunteer coach of the girls’ varsity soccer team said he has also been blocked from his coaching role by the superintendent.

John Helfant, who has served as a police officer for 32 years and is currently the chief of police of the Northfield, Vermont, police department, told the Signal the school district superintendent is using a technicality to keep him from coaching, but he believes he is being punished for speaking out against a biological male using the girls’ locker room.

Superintendent Millington reportedly notified Helfant via email that the district has no record of his completion of “the background check procedure, specifically the fingerprinting check.”

“Beginning immediately and continuing until this matter is resolved, you cannot volunteer in any role or for any activity within the OSSD,” the superintendent said, according to the emails.

Helfant reportedly responded he would “take this as retaliation for my comments against the OSSD and will be informing my attorney.”

“As you know I am a police officer of 32yrs,” he added. “I obviously have no criminal record or would not have been able to retire from the State Police nor would I still be Chief of Police in Northfield if I did.”

The OSSD website remains suspended.

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Blake Allen” by The Daily Signal.


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