Teen Sues School After Being Suspended For Speech.

A freshman student at Exeter High School in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, is suing the School District and the Assistant Principal after he was suspended for saying “there are only two genders.”

The unnamed student was suspended from participating in a football game after he expressed the idea that there are “only two genders,” which may be in conflict with the School District’s policy pertaining to gender-nonconforming students.

The incident started out innocently enough.

During a Spanish class in September, the teacher asked students to identify themselves using the pronoun of their choice.

One student asked to be referred to as “they” as they identified as “non-binary.”

No in-school disruption occurred and the student suing and the “non-binary” student had no interaction that day or since.

No harm, no foul.

Case closed, right?

If it were closed, we would not be writing about it.

The train starts to go off the rails during a bus ride home that day.

After school, the lawsuit states, the student filing the lawsuit spoke with two friends on the bus over the perceived difficulty of using third-person pronouns to refer to themselves in Spanish.

For instance, the third-person pronoun to refer to a group of men is “ellos” but when referring to a group of women it becomes “ellas.”

The lawsuit claims a female student overheard that conversation and responded by saying, “There’s more than two genders.” To which, the student now suing the school allegedly responded by saying, “No there isn’t: there’s only two genders.”

The student suing the school got off the bus at his friend’s house and later received a text from the student who confronted him on his views regarding gender.

“(The student) pressed (the student now suing the school) on the topic of gender, demanding, ‘Give me one valid reason why there’s only two genders,’” the lawsuit states. “The two then had a contentious exchange of texts on the issue.”

(One good reason would be that science recognizes only two genders and how people “feel” and “identify” is not “science.” It is an opinion.)

The lawsuit states it was those texts, which were given to the administration, that resulted in (the student now suing the school’s) suspension for reportedly both failing to respect another student’s gender pronouns and for “inappropriate language” used in his texts, such as “bozo” and “stfu,” an acronym for, “shut the (expletive) up.”

The student now suing the school, according to the suit, was pulled out of class by [Assistant Principal] Dovholuk and Bill Ball, athletic director and varsity football coach.

“Dovholuk and Ball stated that the texts showed that (the student now suing the school) was ‘not respecting pronouns’ and that he needed to ‘respect how people identify,’” the lawsuit alleges.

Ball then allegedly informed him he was suspended from playing football for a week, the suit states. He later reduced that to one game after speaking with the student’s mother, who said her son had done nothing wrong.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Schools do have the right to limit speech that affect the learning environment, but generally that has been held to mean speech at school or at school events.

A private conversation between two people does not come close to meeting the standard that the exchange between the two students was or could have been disruptive.

Furthermore, the idea that some high school Assistant Principal has the right to suspend a kid for what he says in the comfort and sanctity of his own home is an over reach of epic proportions.

Arguably, the school has no right to compel students to say things that are against their religious and moral beliefs.

In the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

The School District and administration is clearly on shaky ground here:

1) The conversation was private – not public.
2) The conversation did not impact the school learning environment at all.
3) The part for which the student was suspended took place while he was home and not anywhere near the school, school property, or on a trip sponsored by the school.
4) The school has no right to demand that a student violate their religious and moral beliefs.

We know that being a teacher and even an administrator is a difficult and sometimes tough job. Yet one would think that with all of the “professional days” for “employment and training enhancement” someone would think to remind, teach and explain to school officials the basics of the First Amendment and how it can be applied in schools.

We know that won’t happen, but we can dream, can’t we?

2 Responses to “Teen Sues School After Being Suspended For Speech.”

  1. Bob Chadwick says:

    There is no such place as Portland, NH.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Bob Chadwick,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We didn’t think there a Portland, NH, but several of the articles we read referenced the town, so we went with it.

      We have now changed the post to reflect the location as “Rockingham County, New Hampshire.”

      Thanks for the catch!

      A. Afterwit.