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Coach, daughter sue over pro-LGBT crackdown

The school district suspended them for speaking up about locker room privacy


iStock.com/Liudmila Chernetska

Coach, daughter sue over pro-LGBT crackdown

A father and daughter filed suit last week against a Vermont school district after it punished both of them for voicing opposition to a boy changing clothes in the girls locker room. Blake Allen, a 14-year-old freshman at Randolph Union High School, told three of her classmates the presence in their locker room of a 14-year-old boy who identified as a girl made her uncomfortable. The school suspended Blake for bullying and harassment for “misgendering” the student in her comments to others. Her father, Travis Allen, the middle and high school soccer coach, also was suspended without pay for comments he made on a Facebook post about the matter.

The initial incident occurred in early September when a male student identifying as female entered the girls locker room while the girls volleyball team changed before a game. Though the student played on the team, the rest of the team became upset and asked the student to leave until they finished changing. The student reportedly did not leave and remained in a corner watching girls undress, according to student accounts. When parents called administrators to complain, the school informed them that under guidelines set by the Vermont Agency of Education, transgender students may use bathrooms and locker rooms for whichever gender they identify with.

Blake voiced her discomfort with the policy to classmates the next day, saying the student “literally is a dude,” and, “he doesn’t belong in the girls locker room.” Someone reported Blake’s comments to school administrators, who launched the investigation resulting in Blake’s suspension. Blake said in an interview with The Daily Signal that she does not care that the student identifies as transgender, she simply does not want to change in front of someone born as a male.

“He was born a boy … I don’t care if he’s on my team, he can join any team, I don’t care.” Blake explained, “But when I’m undressing and there’s a male in the girls locker room or in the bathroom with me, I feel very uncomfortable.”

Parents from both sides soon became vocal on Facebook, commenting on news articles and making posts about the situation. Melissa Sivvy, the student’s stepmother, commented under a news article, “This is slander, defamation of character, and we have secured a lawyer … My daughter has no interest in anything other than being accepted for who she is and playing volleyball.” Sivvy further claimed, “The ACLU has been enlisted,” and “truth will prevail.”

Travis Allen, Blake’s father and the local middle school soccer coach, replied to the stepmother’s comments, 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 school district caught wind of Allen’s comment and suspended him without pay for the remainder of the soccer season, claiming he “misgendered a transgender student” with his comment. In his suspension letter, the school explained that, “While you have a right to your own opinions, you have chosen to publicly put yourself in opposition to the principles the district and its coaches are compelled to uphold.”

During an interview with The Daily Signal, Sivvy claimed that her child was simply “trying to be a kid, trying to play volleyball, just trying to be herself and have a good time.” She goes on to say her child should be treated “like any other girl,” despite being born in a male body. Sivvy also noted that the team changed alongside her child without complaint for months, only complaining when they learned the student identified as transgender. “The truth of the matter is,” she said, “these kids were doing fine until some parents found out there is a girl on the team who was assumed male at birth and is in the process of correcting that mistake with the help of the UVM youth gender clinic.”

After an influx of parent complaints and multiple news stories on the incident, Randolph Union High School principals Lisa Floyd and Caty Sutton announced that the locker room would be closed until further notice. The notice tells students to “either come to school dressed for their game or practice, or expect to change in either the single stall restrooms or in a stall in a multistall restroom.”

Alliance Defending Freedom filed the suit on behalf of the Allens to protect their rights to free speech, urging the school not to change locker room rules for transgender students. ADF senior counsel Philip A. Sechler explained that while some may disagree with Allen’s comments on the situation, he still has a right to express himself.

“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,” Sechler said. “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’s free speech rights.”


Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute student course.

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