VT snowboarding coach fired for sharing view that males have physical advantage over females in sports
Officials unlawfully retaliated against Woodstock Union High School coach David Bloch for expressing religious beliefs, viewpoint
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a snowboarding coach filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Vermont state and school officials after the superintendent fired him for respectfully expressing his view that males are biologically different than females and that those differences give males an advantage in sports.
David Bloch founded the snowboarding team at Woodstock Union High School in 2011 and has served as head coach every year since. Under his leadership, the program has had success both on and off the slopes, including a number of individual state champions. Bloch is a practicing Roman Catholic who believes that God created males and females with immutable sex, and that, based on scientific evidence, there are only two sexes, male and female and that sex is determined by a person’s chromosomes. But for sharing those views in a brief conversation with two others, school officials terminated his employment and barred him from future jobs in the school district.
“For more than a decade, Dave has led the Woodstock Union snowboarding program to enormous success in terms of both athletic accomplishment and personal growth of the snowboarders. But for merely expressing his views that males and females are biologically different and questioning the appropriateness of a teenage male competing against teenage females in an athletic competition, school district officials unconstitutionally fired him,” said ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann. “The First Amendment ensures Dave, and every other American, can freely express his views on a matter of profound public concern without government punishment. We urge the court to swiftly rule that officials must reinstate Dave as snowboarding coach and that district and Vermont officials cannot enforce unconstitutional ‘harassment’ policies against public employees.”
In February, Bloch and his team were waiting in the lodge for a competition to start. That day, Bloch’s team was set to compete against a team that had a male snowboarder who identifies as a female and competes against females. During downtime in the lodge, Bloch overheard a conversation between two of his athletes about that male competing against females. Bloch joined the conversation to comment that people express themselves differently and that there can be masculine women and feminine men. He also affirmed that as a matter of biology, males and females have different DNA, which causes males to develop differently from females and have different physical characteristics, and that those biological differences give males an advantage in athletic competitions.
The conversation was respectful among all parties and lasted no more than three minutes. It took place entirely outside the presence of the male snowboarder who identifies as female, and Bloch’s team and the other team went on to compete without incident. After the competition, the two teams and their coaches, including Bloch, shared a bus home.
The following day, the superintendent of Windsor Central Supervisory Union summoned Bloch to her office and handed him a notice of “immediate termination,” while admitting that the investigation into Bloch’s conversation was not complete. The notice accused Bloch of violating Windsor Central Supervisory Union Board’s Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying policy and the Vermont Principals’ Association related policy for “ma[king] reference to [a] student in a manner that questioned the legitimacy and appropriateness of the student competing on the girls’ team to members of the WUHS snowboard team”—all outside the student’s presence.
The Windsor Central Supervisory Union Board adopted its HHB policy and procedures substantively verbatim from the model HHB policy and procedures issued by the Vermont secretary of education following a state law requiring school districts to adopt such a policy. Likewise, the VPA adopted the same statutory prohibition of “harassment.”
The lawsuit explains that the statute and policies all contain content and viewpoint discriminatory, overbroad, and unconstitutionally vague definitions of harassment that state and school officials can use—and have used, in this case—to censor protected speech.
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Bloch v. Bouchey, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. Anthony Duprey is serving as local counsel on behalf of Bloch.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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