A snowboarding coach, David Bloch, has taken legal action against Vermont state and school officials, filing a federal lawsuit claiming his First Amendment rights were violated. Bloch was fired from his position as the founder and head coach of the snowboarding team at Woodstock Union High School after engaging in a respectful conversation about biological differences between males and females in sports.
Bloch founded the snowboarding team 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.
“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.”
Bloch, a practicing Roman Catholic, holds the belief that males and females are biologically different and that these differences give males an advantage in athletic competitions. 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 lawsuit, represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), argues that the school district’s harassment policies are unconstitutional. They claim that the policies are content and viewpoint discriminatory, overbroad, and unconstitutionally vague, granting officials the power to censor protected speech.
The lawsuit seeks Bloch’s reinstatement as the snowboarding coach while challenging the constitutionality of the school district’s harassment policies. By taking legal action, Bloch aims to protect his First Amendment rights and address the tension between free speech and anti-harassment policies.
This case highlights the ongoing debate surrounding free speech rights in educational institutions and the delicate balance between protecting individuals from harassment and ensuring the preservation of diverse viewpoints. As the lawsuit unfolds, it will likely serve as an important test case for the boundaries of free speech within the context of school policies and employment rights.
It remains to be seen how the court will evaluate the constitutionality of the school district’s harassment policies and whether Bloch’s termination will be deemed a violation of his First Amendment rights. This lawsuit draws attention to the need for schools and institutions to carefully navigate the complexities of free speech while maintaining an inclusive and respectful environment for all individuals involved.