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School board 'punished' middle school girls who protested biological male competing against them at track meet: Complaint
Image source: X video screenshot via @Riley_Gaines_, composite

School board 'punished' middle school girls who protested biological male competing against them at track meet: Complaint

A West Virginia school board "punished" a group of middle school girls who protested a biological male competing against them at a track meet earlier this month, according to a legal complaint.

What's the background?

Cellphone video showed girls from Lincoln Middle School staging a protest in the shot put ring at the Harrison County Middle School Championships on April 18; one by one, they stepped into the ring and then quickly stepped out without making attempts.

While the video in the post from female athlete advocate Riley Gaines appears to show six separate protests by Lincoln girls in the shot put ring, AthleticNet indicated that five Lincoln girls posted "ND" (no distance) in the finals. Gaines also wrote that five girls refused to participate.

Blaze News reported that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just days prior to the meet ruled in a 2-1 decision that a West Virginia law requiring every student athlete to participate in accordance with their biological sex violates the Title IX rights of Becky Pepper-Jackson — the student against whom the girls protested.

Pepper-Jackson — a biological male — has been living as a female and taking puberty blockers for years. AthleticNet said Pepper-Jackson of Bridgeport won the shot put final at the meet with a toss of 32 feet, 9 inches, easily besting the second-place finisher by more than three feet.

What happened next?

Parents of four of the five protesting girls filed the legal complaint against the Harrison County Board of Education.

The complaint states the girls attended an April 24 press conference addressing their protest. Attendees included Gaines and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Auditor J.B. McCuskey, along with several Republicans from the state Senate and House of Delegates, the complaint states.

The complaint also states that the next day — Thursday — the father of one of the girls "spoke with Lincoln Middle School principal Lori Scott," who told him that the girls who protested "would not be permitted to compete in a scheduled track and field meet on April 27, 2024."

The complaint also states that a father of another girl spoke with coach Dawn Riestenberg, who "informed him that his daughter would not be allowed to participate in the scheduled track and field meet on April 27." The complaint adds that Riestenberg told the dad that the girls were barred from the meet because it was her job “to score points for the track team,” which the complaint says correlates to "the minor student athletes’ protest and subsequent appearance at a press conference to the decision to ban them from competition."

The complaint states that the protesting girls "are being punished" by the school board "for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of West Virginia."

The complaint was filed Friday — the day before the April 27 meet from which the girls allegedly were barred — and seeks no monetary damages, only "injunctive relief." State Attorney General Morrisey filed an amicus brief Friday in support of the parents' complaint.

“The only thing this decision does is teach these children to keep their mouths shut and not disagree with what they saw as unfairness,” Morrisey said in a news release, according to WBOY-TV. “That is outrageous and it tramples these students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression.”

Apparently, the complaint and even support from the state attorney general were not enough.

AthleticNet records show that none of the Lincoln Middle School girls listed in the complaint took part in the shot put competition at the Mid Mountain 10 Championships on April 27.

In addition, while it's been reported that the protesting girls were barred from competition for a longer period of time, all the girls in the complaint are listed on the shot put stat sheet from a Monday invitational meet.

The school board on Tuesday didn't immediately reply to Blaze News' request for comment on the complaint.

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Dave Urbanski

Dave Urbanski

Sr. Editor, News

Dave Urbanski is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@DaveVUrbanski →