Father, Daughter Punished in Trans Bathroom Dispute Win $125K from School District
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A Vermont school district has settled a lawsuit brought last fall by a student-athlete and her father after they were punished for using male pronouns to describe a male-to-female transgender student in the girls' locker room.
As CBN News reported, Travis Allen and his 14-year-old daughter Blake Allen filed a lawsuit against Orange Southwest School District and Randolph Union High School after school officials suspended Travis from his coaching job and disciplined Blake. The father and daughter argued the district's actions violated their First Amendment rights.
The Daily Signal reports the district has settled with the Allen family in what its legal team hailed as a "resounding victory."
The settlement requires the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust to pay the Allens $125,000 in damages and attorneys' fees and costs, according to the outlet.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit religious rights law firm, represented the Allen family in their legal fight with the school district.
As a result of the settlement, the district will reinstate Allen as a middle school soccer coach, and will also remove any records of discipline against him and his daughter Blake, according to The Daily Signal. In addition, the school board and school officials must remove any content posted online about the locker room incident as well as notes from bulletin boards at Randolph Union Middle/High School displaying "love and support" messages to the transgender student.
"The settlement of Blake and Travis Allen's case is a resounding victory for freedom of speech," ADF Senior Counsel Phil Sechler told The Daily Signal.
"Calling a male a male shouldn't have cost Travis his job and gotten Blake kicked out of school," Sechler added. "We are very glad that the school agreed to do the right thing by giving Travis his coaching job back and dropping the discipline against Blake. Everyone has the right to speak freely, and we are grateful that this settlement further protects that right."
As CBN News reported, in September of 2022, a 14-year-old male student who identifies as female and plays on the Randolph Union High School girls' volleyball team entered the locker room while the girls were changing.
"A male was in our locker room when volleyball girls were trying to get changed," Blake recalled to The Daily 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."
Multiple girls in the locker room, including Blake, became upset, and multiple parents, including Blake's mother, called the co-principal's office to object.
School officials told the concerned girls and parents that the biologically male student could use the girls' locker room even while the girls are undressing or showering and that if any girls felt uncomfortable, they could use a single-stall restroom outside the locker room.
Blake was later suspended from school for two days for reportedly violating its Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying policy when she spoke out about the incident.
Meanwhile, her father, Travis, expressed his views about the incident on a local news station's Facebook page.
A user identifying as the "mother of the trans student in question" claimed Blake "made up the story for attention," and that the "truth will prevail."
Travis defended his daughter saying, "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."
The district superintendent determined that by writing that comment, the father had "misgendered a transgender student" and suspended Travis from his job as the middle school girls' soccer coach without pay for the rest of the season.
In their 124-page federal lawsuit filed last October against the school board and other school officials, the Allens noted they "were punished for expressing their view 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 the girls in that room."
"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 complaint said.
"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," the lawsuit argued.
"This case presents a textbook example of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination," the lawsuit noted.
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