A high-profile conservative Christian legal advocacy group has taken up the case of a student and her father who school officials say bullied and abused a transgender girl at Randolph Union High School.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, along with Vergennes attorney Anthony Duprey, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Orange Southwest School District, alleging that the directors retaliated against Travis and Blake Allen for exercising their right to free speech.
The group alleged in a press release that school officials punished Blake, a 14-year-old volleyball player, “for calling a male student a ‘dude’ and using masculine pronouns to express their opinion that the male student should not be allowed in the girls’ locker room.” Travis, her father, was suspended from coaching college girls’ football for similar behavior, Alliance Defending Freedom said.
Travis and his wife, Jessica, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The suit names Superintendent Layne Millington, high school co-principals Lisa Floyd and Caty Sutton, and the school board as defendants. He alleges that Blake was disciplined by the school for speaking out about “the propriety of a teenager stripping, showering and changing with teenage girls in a girls’ locker room”.
The story quickly went viral in right-wing media, including Fox News, the New York Post and the daily signal.The story lacked the perspective of the transgender student. His mother later spoke to Seven days and said her daughter had actually been bullied. WCAX later removed their story from their website. “to prevent others from using our reporting to attack members of the transgender community,” station news director Roger Garrity said. Seven days.
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Thursday’s trial includes an email Floyd and Sutton, co-principals of Randolph Union High School, were sent to the Allens on Oct. 23. He said the school found that “Blake engaged in verbal and physical behavior directed at a student based on the targeted student. gender identity at team events, practices, on the pitch and in the locker room.”
Blake intended to “ridicule, humiliate and/or bully the targeted student” and violated the school district’s bullying policy, the principals wrote.
As a result, the school suspended Blake and said she must participate in a restorative circle and submit an essay documenting what she learned from the experience. If Blake refused to participate in the process, the letter said, she would be suspended from school for three additional days.
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Allens’ lawsuit also alleges that Travis, Blake’s father, was suspended without pay from coaching the college girls’ soccer team for using incorrect pronouns and the term “male” to refer to. the transgender student.
In a September 29 Facebook post, a copy of which is attached to the lawsuit, Travis addressed the transgender student’s mother, writing “the truth is your son watched my daughter and several other daughters change in the locker room. While getting a free show, they were raped… I wonder how you would feel if I watched you undress?”
In a letter to Travis from Superintendent Millington – which was also included as an exhibit in the lawsuit – Millington said Travis’ mistreatment of the student was “unprofessional and unbecoming and against Vermont “. [Principals’] Association athletic rules, Vermont state rules and [Randolph Union] college expectations.
Millington said in the letter that the school district advised Travis to issue a public apology. After Travis refused, the district suspended him without pay for the remainder of the season.
In their lawsuit, the Allens ask the court to compel the school district to reinstate Travis as a football coach and refrain from taking any further action against him. They are also asking for the cancellation of all disciplinary measures against Blake.
In an email to Seven days On Thursday evening, Orange Southwest attorney Pietro Lynn wrote that the school district expects to prevail in the case, citing Vermont’s “proud tradition of standing up for the rights of all.” He also noted the district’s adherence to both state law and Education Agency guidelines.
“[Randolph Union High School] and Orange Southwest Unified Union School District are proud to support our trans students and enforce our legally mandated policies,” Lynn’s email continued. The plaintiffs apparently argue that the degrading behavior, ridicule and intimidation of RUHS students is protected by freedom of speech. If so, it’s a sad day for all Vermonters.”
The district scheduled two community forums to discuss the controversy earlier this month. The first took place as planned, and many attendees expressed their support for the transgender student. But the second was called off after the district received threats.
On Thursday night, father and daughter appeared on “Tucker Carlson tonight“, with one of their lawyers, Tyson Langhofer. Blake told Carlson that she was punished for expressing her discomfort at having a transgender student in the locker room.
On the show, the conservative TV personality portrayed the Allens as heroes.
“It’s only when people like you – Travis Allen, Blake Allen – pick up the pieces, stand up, speak the truth for basic human rights, like the right to change without a guy looking at you. is only when you do that things get better,” Carlson said.
Langhofer, lead attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, told Carlson that the school district retaliated against the Allens “for simply expressing their views.”
“What’s crazy about this, Tucker, is that Blake understands the problem. She doesn’t need rehab. Men are men, women are women,” Langhofer said. “And Blake shouldn’t have to change in front of a man or watch a man change.”
Alliance Defending Freedom most famously represented a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The case went to the United States Supreme Court, who reigned narrowly for the benefit of the baker in 2018.
The group has also taken on business in Vermont, including a lawsuit it filed last year against Education Secretary Dan French and several school districts in an attempt to force them to pay for students to attend Catholic schools.
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In September, as part of a settlement related to that lawsuit, French issued guidelines to school districts stating that they could not withhold tuition payments from religious schools as long as the schools met quality standards of state education. French’s advice came in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carson v. Makinwwhich concluded that Maine’s exclusion of religious schools from its tuition curriculum was a violation of the First Amendment.
Alliance Defending Freedom has been accused of helping craft state laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people. The group has filed lawsuits across the country seeking to exclude transgender students from school sports and deny them access to bathrooms that match their gender identity.