Family punished after opposing locker room policy settles lawsuit

Unsplash/Max Harlynking

A Vermont school district has settled a lawsuit alleging the district infringed on a family’s free speech after it objected to the use of a girls’ locker room by a trans-identified biological male student.

The nonprofit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom is celebrating what it calls a “resounding victory” in the case of Travis and Jessica Allen on behalf of their 14-year-old daughter, Blake, The White River Valley Herald reports.

The agreement provides that the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust will pay damages and attorneys’ fees to the Allen family and their attorneys.

The agreement also calls for the reinstatement of Travis Allen as football coach and clears the couple’s records of any reference to discipline.

“We are grateful that the school has recognized that it was wrong to suspend Blake from the school and Travis from his coaching position simply for exercising their free speech,” ADF lead attorney Phil Sechler said in a statement. “No one should lose their job or be suspended from school for speaking out or calling a man a man and we are pleased to see this case resolved favorably, not only for Blake and Travis, but so that all students and coaches can speak out.” freely and without fear of reprisals.

The lawsuit was filed last November, alleging that the Orange Southwest School District and Randolph Union High School violated the family’s First Amendment rights by punishing them for referring to the transgender-identified student as male. The complaint listed Superintendent Layne Millington, Co-Principals Lisa Floyd and Caty Sutton and the Orange Southwest School District Board as defendants.

School officials allegedly told Blake Allen on October 21 that he was harassing a student because of his gender identity. He was suspended and told that she should participate in a “restorative justice circle” and write a letter of apology to the student.

Travis Allen, who worked as a high school girls’ soccer coach, was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season for allegedly mistaking the student’s gender.

The settlement also requires the district to remove dress-related online content posted by the school and any such content from Randolph Union Middle School/High School’s bulletin boards that displayed messages of “love and support” to the transgender student. according to The Daily Signal.

Superintendent Millington asserted that the settlement “should in no way be construed as an admission of liability or misconduct,” noting that the payment was made to limit expenses associated with protracted litigation, according to The Herald.

He stressed that the district’s policies remained unchanged and expressed relief that the district was able to refocus on educating students.

This case stemmed from an incident last fall at Randolph Union High School when a trans-identified volleyball player attempted to wear the girls’ locker room, which she is allowed to do under school and district rules, as well as state law. Reactions within the school and the broader community were divided, with some supporting the student’s right to use the locker room and others, including the Allen family, expressing anger and opposition.

Reflecting on the case, Travis Allen acknowledged the toll it had taken on his family, but celebrated it as a victory for free speech, saying standing up for his values ​​had finally brought his family closer together.

In April, former Indiana music teacher John Kluge filed for an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after being forced to resign for refusing to use the names and pronouns chosen by trans-identified students. , citing religious freedom.

Kluge, represented by ADF, argued that the school’s actions violated Title VII, which prohibits religious discrimination.

Also in April, Georgia’s Bryan County Schools agreed to pay $181,000 and reinstate substitute teacher Lindsey Barr, who was fired for opposing a children’s book depicting same-sex couples.

Represented by ADF, Barr expressed concerns about the age-appropriateness and content of the book, which conflicted with her values ​​and faith. She was fired after her objections, which led to the lawsuit.

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