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High school student sues school over suspension for believing in gender binary

The latest entry in the high school culture wars comes from New Hampshire where a freshman is suing his school because it briefly suspended him from the football team.

His offense? Saying there are “only two genders.”

This statement violated Exeter High School’s “Gender Nonconforming Students Policy,” but the student’s attorney says his client is being punished for his Catholic beliefs — a violation of both the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions.

“[The student] in fact denied, and will continue to deny, that any person can belong to a gender other than that of ‘male’ or ‘female,’” the lawsuit states. “(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.”

According to the suit, the controversy started in Spanish class when the teacher asked students to introduce themselves. One student noted she “considers herself non-binary” and goes by the pronoun “they.”

Incredibly, the non-binary student and the plaintiff had no “direct interaction that day, nor since.” How the plaintiff got into hot water was a female student overheard him talking with some friends about the matter on a school bus.

ALERT: Check out our new Campus Cancel Culture Database!

And how were they discussing it? In the context of the very class in which the issue first arose:

“[T]he 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 eavesdropping girl broke in saying “There’s more than two genders,” to which the plaintiff responded “No there isn’t: There’s only two genders.”

The girl (allegedly) continued the argument via text message after the bus ride, and the lawsuit contends it is these messages which were brought to the attention of school administrators.

Assistant Principal Marcy Dovholuk and Athletic Director Bill Ball later confronted the plaintiff with the messages, informing him he was “not respecting pronouns.” They also said he needed to “respect how people identify.” Ball initially suspended the plaintiff for a week, but dropped it to one game after speaking to the plaintiff’s mother (who told him her son “did nothing wrong”).

The lawsuit contends that since “the content of his text messages in an off-campus conversation initiated by another student were the basis of his athletic suspension,” school administrators have no standing to discipline him.

“Regardless of what defendants may think about these words, [the plaintiff] did not use profane or insulting language towards any person while in the school building, on a school bus, during school activities, or on school property in any of the events leading up to his athletic suspension and this case.”

As a former Spanish teacher and coach, two things: 1) Participation in school sports is not a right; players can (and should) be booted for disrespect and other unsportsmanlike behavior. This is not the case here, however. 2) I’d give the plaintiff (off-the-record) extra credit for his thoughtful discussion on Spanish personal pronouns.

Exeter High made the news earlier this year after it required COVID-19-unvaccinated students to get their hands “marked” in the name of “contact tracing.”

MORE: HS football players get suspended for carrying flags honoring first responders

IMAGE: Daren Woodward / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.