A Catholic student has filed a lawsuit against a New Hampshire school district, claiming he was punished for stating that there are only two genders in a debate with another student.
The student, a freshman at Exeter High School identified in court documents as “M.P.,” was suspended from playing football for one game after saying there were only two genders. The school district contends that no rights were violated and the decision was made by coaches.
The lawsuit was filed in Rockingham Superior Court on Nov. 4, with the local school administrative unit, known as SAU 16, receiving a copy of the complaint last week.
Cornerstone Action, a conservative group representing the student, argued in a statement on Monday that the punishment violated the student’s free speech rights.
The group claims that a politically progressive student who is not trans-identified engaged the Catholic student in a debate over gender identity, in which M.P. argued that the only two genders are male and female.
The progressive student allegedly turned over an exchange of text messages to Vice Principal Mary Dovholuk. The vice principal is accused of confronting M. P. with printed copies of the messages.
Of particular objection was the school district’s Gender Nonconforming Students policy enacted in 2016, which Cornerstone contends is used to coerce speech.
“In applying this policy, the defendants have not only punished a student for expressing an opinion, but seek to compel students to use ‘non-binary’ pronouns such as the singular pronoun ‘they,’” the lawsuit reads.
“M. P. did not harass or demean any student, but simply expressed his views on a contentious cultural issue. The key question before the court will be if Exeter’s Gender Nonconforming Students policy, nearly identical to the policy adopted by school districts across the state, can be used to suppress the free speech rights of students who hold dissenting views.”
In a statement shared with The Christian Post, SAU 16 Superintendent David Ryan said school officials “respect the right of coaches to make such decisions in a manner consistent with the standards for all student athletes.”
“While we cannot reveal all of the facts at this time, due to the pending litigation and involvement of a minor, it is our belief that once all of the facts are reviewed as part of the legal process, it will be clear that no rights were violated,” the superintendent stressed.
“SAU 16 remains committed to creating and sustaining a trusting, diverse, inclusive school community where all are welcomed, respected, valued and empowered.”
Ryan also defended the school district’s gender-nonconforming policies, saying that the measures “exist in order to meet the districts’ legal obligation under New Hampshire law to ensure that transgender students have equal access to educational opportunity and are protected from discrimination.”
“The policies do not mandate student discipline, but instead recommend corrective action for discrimination or harassment,” Ryan added.
“It is important to note that a coach’s decision is different from a suspension from school and that all student athletes are expected to serve as role models and to treat their fellow students with respect. SAU 16 is in full support of the measures taken by the coaching staff at Exeter High School.”