LGBTQ+ activist claims Vermont police chief makes community unsafe by supporting traditional values

An LGBTQ+ activist in Vermont claims a police chief’s belief in traditional values makes him unfit to serve the public interest, according to a report by VTDigger. 

Northfield Police Chief John…

An LGBTQ+ activist in Vermont claims a police chief’s belief in traditional values makes him unfit to serve the public interest, according to a report by VTDigger. 

Northfield Police Chief John Helfant’s actions “cultivate a community culture of hate against trans youth and people,” argues Dana Kaplan, executive director of Outright Vermont, an LGBTQ+ activist group. “How can he hold such a substantial and essential role in the community? How are trans community members — or any community members who do not share his views — supposed to feel safe or rely on the department?” 

The controversy erupted after Helfant was dismissed from his role as volunteer soccer coach of the Randolph Union High School girls’ soccer team over what the district said was an incomplete background check. 

“The district has no record of you completing the background check procedure, specifically the fingerprinting check. Beginning immediately and continuing until this matter is resolved, you cannot volunteer in any role or for any activity within the OSSD,” Orange Southwest School District Superintendent Layne Millington reportedly wrote in an email to Helfant in October. 

Helfant disputes that characterization, saying he was fired from the position in retaliation for publicly opposing the school district’s policy allowing a transgender female, who is a biological male, the use of the girls’ locker room. 

“I will take this as retaliation for my comments against the OSSD and will be informing my attorney,” Helfant replied. “As you know I am a police officer of 32yrs. I obviously have no criminal record or would not have been able to retire from the State Police nor would I still be Chief of Police in (Northfield) if I did.” 

Emails submitted to VTDigger by Helfant confirm the school district had indeed submitted the fingerprint form for Helfant.   

However, Superintendent Millington claimed this went against the district’s procedure, citing a technicality that he says required Helfant to submit his fingerprint form directly to the entity taking his fingerprints – at which time that entity was to submit the form to the Vermont Crime Information Center for processing, not the school district.  

Millington also reportedly declined Helfant’s offer to present his own background check, calling it a conflict of interest. 

Helfant insists this is punishment for a commentary he wrote for the Vermont Daily Chronicle in which he suggested Millington, other school leaders and the school board could be considered accessories to the crime of voyeurism for allowing a transgender female student to use the girls’ locker alongside biologically female students.  

Helfant commented online in November in support of the traditional values his family and many others in the community hold.  

“Local people are not full of hate or bigotry, we just simply do not believe as you do or as the Agency of Education does through their state wide policy. We believe in traditional US norms for bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms,” Helfant wrote to Millington on an online forum called Front Porch. “I personally believe that anyone can be what or who they want to be. That’s the joy of living in this great country. There are limits though.” 

Helfant concluded his post with a phrase he said he borrowed from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

“My views are not outdated, bigoted or hateful, they are main stream. Most ‘people with periods’ do not want ‘someone without periods’ in a bathroom, changing room or shower room with them when they are in their undergarments, partially naked or naked.” 

It all apparently prompted the attack from activist Kaplan.  

“As the police chief, he is the highest-ranking officer of the local law enforcement department and is responsible for the safety of all community members within his service area,” she wrote in a statement. “It’s a small department in a small community, which means that the reverberations of his influence are significant and pose a threat to vulnerable community members.” 

As previously reported by The Lion, an earlier controversy at Vermont’s Randolph Union High School began when some of its female volleyball players were banned from their own locker room over objections to changing in front of a transgender female student who is a biological male. 

Blake Allen, one of the female players, told WCAX-TV the transgender student made an inappropriate comment as the volleyball team was changing in the locker room, which triggered an incident between the students.   

After the incident, some members of the girls’ volleyball team objected to having a transgender teammate in the locker room while they were changing. Upon objecting, they were promptly banned from using the girls’ locker room altogether and placed under investigation for harassment.  

Allen told WCAX-TV her issue was not about having a transgender student on the team or even at the school, but specifically in the locker room. “There are biological boys that go into the girls’ bathroom but never a locker room,” she said.  

“It’s a huge thing. Everyone’s asking, ‘So, why aren’t you allowed in the locker room?’ I feel like, for stating my opinion – that I don’t want a biological man changing with me – that I should not have harassment charges or bullying charges. They should all be dropped.”  

Helfant may not be the only employee the district or Millington have retaliated against for their views. 

Blake’s father, Travis Allen, was reportedly suspended without pay as Randolph Union Middle School girls’ soccer coach because he allegedly “misgendered a transgender student in [the] district.” 

Allen told school officials he called the biologically male student a “he” on purpose, Millington wrote in a letter reprimanding Allen.  

“Such conduct is unprofessional and unbecoming, and flies in the face of the Vermont Principal Association’s athletic regulations, Vermont State regulations, and the RUHS Middle-High School expectations,” Millington wrote.  

The letter also said school officials have “significant concerns” about Allen’s ability to “support all of our students as the law requires.”  

In response, Allen offered to avoid using gender pronouns while communicating with transgender students and to take down his social media post, but the district demanded a public apology as well. When he refused, he was suspended.  

His suspension came not long after news reports detailing the district’s treatment of his daughter and her high school volleyball teammates for objecting to having the transgender student use the girls’ locker room while they were changing.