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HS football player — suspended for game allegedly for saying there are 'only two genders' when he was off campus — is suing school district

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A New Hampshire high school football player who was suspended for a game allegedly for saying there are "only two genders" is suing his school district, the Portsmouth Herald reported.

What are the details?

The Exeter High School freshman and his mother filed the Nov. 4 suit in Rockingham Superior Court against New Hampshire School Administrative Unit 16 through attorney Ian Huyett of Cornerstone Action, a nonprofit Christian advocacy organization, the paper said.

The lawsuit says the student's September suspension violated his constitutional free speech rights as well as the state's bill of rights since he voiced his Catholic belief that there are only male and female genders, the Herald said.

According to the lawsuit, the student was speaking with two friends on a bus after school about using Spanish third-person pronouns to refer to themselves when a female student overheard the chat and interjected that there are "more than two genders," the paper said.

The student filing the suit responded that there are "only two genders" — and later actually got a text from the student who confronted him, the Herald said, citing the suit.

"[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 adds, according to the Herald. "The two then had a contentious exchange of texts on the issue."

Texts allegedly turned over to administration

The lawsuit states that those texts were turned over to the school's administration and that Assistant Principal Marcy Dovholuk and Bill Ball — athletic director and varsity football coach — pulled the student filing the suit out of class, the paper said.

"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 states, according to the Herald.

The paper said Ball then allegedly said he was suspended from playing football for a week, which was later reduced to one game after the student's mother told Ball her son did nothing wrong, the suit says. He also was punished for using "inappropriate language" in his texts such as "bozo" and "stfu" (i.e., "shut the [expletive] up"), the Herald said.

Gender Nonconforming Students policy

Besides seeking nominal damages, the lawsuit also takes issue with the school district's policy regarding gender-nonconforming students, the paper said.

The lawsuit states that the policy penalizes students who, due to their religious beliefs, don't address non-binary students with their chosen gender-identity pronouns, the Herald added.

"[The student] does not deny that he violated the Gender Nonconforming Students policy," the lawsuit states, according to the paper. "He in fact denied, and will continue to deny, that any person can belong to a gender other than that of 'male' or 'female.' … [The student] will never refer to any individual person using plural pronouns such as 'they,' using contrived pronouns such as 'ze,' or with any similar terminology that reflects values which [the student] does not share."

The Herald reported that, according to the policy, a "student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student's gender identity" and that "the intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student's gender identity … is a violation of this policy."

The lawsuit adds that the high school administration did not have the authority to punish the student in question because the content of the student's text messages were the result of an off-campus conversation initiated by another student, the paper said.

SAU 16 Superintendent David Ryan told the Herald that district officials "are in the process of reviewing this complaint with legal counsel and will be able to share a statement once we have completed that review."

Anything else?

In June, Exeter High School marked the hands of prom attendees according to their COVID-19 vaccination status, which upset a number of parents and students — as well as a state lawmaker — but was defended by Principal Michael Monahan.

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