An American school district which suspended a soccer coach and his teenage daughter after they complained last year about a biological boy’s behaviour in a girls’ locker room, has agreed to pay them damages.
Travis and Blake Allen had sued the Vermont district for infringing on their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
They contended that then 14-year-old Blake was suspended for two days and made to take part in a “restorative circle” after making comments that a member of a girls’ volleyball team, did not belong in the girls’ locker room. The lawsuit stated that Mr. Allen was suspended from his coaching position for misgendering the student.
The school has now agreed to settle the case and pay the Allens and their attorneys nearly AS$200,000 in damages and legal fees.
It will also reinstate the coach and remove all references to the disciplinary action against the pair from their school records.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Phil Sechler who represented the Allens described it as “a resounding victory for freedom of speech.”
“Calling a male a male shouldn’t have cost Travis his job and gotten Blake kicked out of school. We are glad to see this case resolve favourably, not only for Blake and Travis, but for all students and coaches to be able to speak freely without fear of retaliation,” he said.
The school’s superintendent said “the payment by the District’s insurance company was far less than the anticipated costs of defending the case.”
The dispute flared when the 14-year-old biologically male member of the volleyball team used a locker room while female students were changing and allegedly made an inappropriate remark.
Some team members including Blake Allen asked the player to leave, but the student stood in a corner and looked at the girls while they were changing, causing them to feel uncomfortable.
The Allens’ legal complaint claimed the female vollleyballers were never warned a transgender student would be using their locker room.
It also alleged that student threatened to harm Blake Allen and the school took no action.
The case attracted national attention and divided the local community after Blake complained about the incident and appeared on local TV and her father publicly supported her. Their comments prompted the school to suspend them.