Blake Allen, a 15-year-old student-athlete, was suspended last year for speaking out about being made uncomfortable by the male student allowed in the girl’s volleyball locker room. The male student identifies as transgender. Allen, then 14 years old, was accused of harassing the male student after expressing her unhappiness to a fellow classmate. The girl’s father, Travis Allen, was subsequently fired from his position as a middle school soccer coach for defending his daughter and “misgendering” the trans student. The Allens filed suit against school officials following the incidents.
A recent settlement in the case awards a $125,000 payment to the Allens and their attorneys, legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. It also calls for the reinstatement of Mr. Allen as soccer coach and scrubs the pair’s records of any reference to the discipline, reported the White River Valley Herald.
Phil Sechler, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said the win was a “resounding victory for freedom of speech.”
“We are grateful that the school recognized it was wrong to suspend Blake from school and Travis from his coaching position simply for exercising their freedom of speech,” Sechler said. “No one should lose their job or get suspended from school for voicing their opinion or calling a male a male and we are glad to see this case resolved favorably, not only for Blake and Travis, but for all students and coaches to be able to speak freely and without fear of retaliation.”
Mr. Allen, likewise, called the win “a huge victory for freedom of speech,” for him and his daughter and “anyone who wants to voice their opinion on important topics.”
“Certainly, the victory for everyone to speak freely is the most important achievement with this lawsuit. It was worth it,” he said.
“This has taken a toll on our family, both close and distant. It showed us who will and won’t support us even if they do not agree with our values,” he continued. “Blake’s punishment would not have been reversed had we not filed the lawsuit and I wouldn’t be able to coach in the fall if we had not reached the settlement.”
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Mr. Allen said. “We currently live in a time where you have to defend your values from some pretty radical ideologies.”
The teen recently spoke about the victory to attorney John Klar. She said she was happy she stood up for what was “right,” but noted some of the hardships she endured. For example, Allen recalled some of her fellow volleyball players being upset with her after she spoke to the media about the incident and her punishment.
The case has indeed sparked much media attention. On Saturday, Twitter CEO Elon Musk remarked on the actions school officials took against the Allens, calling them “incredibly unjust.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 3, 2023
The superintendent of the Orange Southwest Supervisory District, Layne Millington, has downplayed the settlement, emphasizing that the school will continue with its policies.
“The Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust made the decision concerning the payment in order to cap defense expenses in what would otherwise be years of litigation,” Millington said. “The district has made no admission of wrongdoing. Our policies are unchanged and we will continue to comply with our policies and the law.”