A New Hampshire teen was suspended from school and held out from a football game for sending a text message to another classmate stating that there are only two genders. The school, Exeter High, claims that the text message was a violation of its transgender and nonconforming students policy. The teen has filed a lawsuit in response, putting the school’s policy in jeopardy.
According to multiple sources, the situation started on September 9th when a student in the teen’s Spanish class stated that she was ‘non-binary’ and preferred to be called ‘they’. The teen, identified in official documents as M.P., discussed the situation later on the school bus with other students. He stated that he didn’t see how plural pronouns could be used for Spanish-speakers since the language relies on feminine and masculine identifiers. A female student who overheard the conversation allegedly interjected that there are more than two genders. That student, identified as A.G. in the lawsuit, is not transgender but believes in gender ‘fluidity’.
After the exchange on the bus, A.G. obtained M.P.’s phone number to continue the discussion over text messages. A.G. asserted that gender is different than sex, with sex being assigned at birth, adding that, “You’re in High School, you should know this.” M.P. reiterated his belief that there are only two genders and forcefully told A.G. to leave him alone. At no point did M.P. speak about or demean a specific student.
The day after the text exchange, M.P. was pulled from class by his vice principal and football coach and scolded for the texts. The principal and coach were given a printout of the text messages by A.G. and the two used the exchange as grounds for punishment for “not respecting pronouns.” M.P. was initially suspended from football for an entire week, but that punishment was allegedly pulled back to one day shortly after.
The overreaching punishments were an attempt to enforce the school’s controversial transgender and gender nonconforming policy. The policy states: “a student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity…the intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity…is a violation of this policy.” The vice principal stated that M.P. was suspended, “both for failing to recognize another student’s gender pronouns and using inappropriate language in his texts.”
The student and his family are fighting back with a lawsuit with the belief that this punishment violated his first amendment rights. Attorney Ian Huyett of Cornerstone Action filed the suit on behalf of the student and his mother. The lawsuit asserts that the interaction did not take place on school grounds, that the suspension violated M.P.’s first amendment rights, and that he was being punished for his Catholic beliefs.
The Lawsuit states:
[The student] does not deny that he violated the Gender Nonconforming Students policy. 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.
At time of writing, no public statement is available from Exeter High School, except that the “complaint was in the process of being reviewed ‘with legal counsel’ and that a statement would be shared upon completion of the review.”