A $125,000 settlement was reached in a lawsuit where the Orange Southwest School District and its co-principals at Randolph Union High School allegedly punished Blake and Travis Allen unlawfully for complaining about a male using the female locker room after volleyball practice.
According to The Herald, the compromise also restored Travis Allen as the middle school soccer coach and wiped Blake Allen's suspension off of her record. It notes that the district is compromising and "is not in any way to be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing."
The case stems back to an incident where a trans-identified male was in the female locker room after volleyball practice, which was allowed under state law at the time. Witness statements from the incident vary, with some claiming the teen stopped and leered at the other girls in the shower, and others saying the individual froze and didn't know what to do.
The suit was filed for violations of Allens' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by the school district after Travis Allen was removed from his position as a soccer coach for not using the trans individual's desired pronouns in a Facebook comment. Blake Allen was suspended from school after allegedly saying the teen was "literally a dude."
Superintendent of the Orange Southwest Supervisory District Layne Millington said in a statement, "The district is pleased to resolve the lawsuit at this early stage and return our focus to educating students.”
"The Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust made the decision concerning the payment in order to cap defense expenses in what would otherwise be years of litigation,” she continued. "The district has made no admission of wrongdoing. Our policies are unchanged and we will continue to comply with our policies and the law.”
"We are grateful that the school recognized it was wrong to suspend Blake from school and Travis from his coaching position simply for exercising their freedom of speech," said senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, Phil Sechler. "No one should lose their job or get suspended from school for voicing their opinion or calling a male a male and we are glad to see this case resolved favorably, not only for Blake and Travis, but for all students and coaches to be able to speak freely and without fear of retaliation.”
“This settlement was a huge victory for freedom of speech, not just for Blake and me, but for anyone who wants to voice their opinion on important topics,” Travis Allen said in a statement. "Certainly, the victory for everyone to speak freely is the most important achievement with this lawsuit. It was worth it. This has taken a toll on our family, both close and distant. It showed us who will and won’t support us even if they do not agree with our values. Blake’s punishment would not have been reversed had we not filed the lawsuit and I wouldn’t be able to coach in the fall if we had not reached the settlement. I wouldn’t change anything. We currently live in a time where you have to defend your values from some pretty radical ideologies.”
According to Vermont law, "A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity." It adds, "Schools may consider including gender-neutral restrooms into the design of new construction and/or building renovation."
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