A high school snowboarding coach in Vermont filed a lawsuit against school officials after he was fired for making comments about the biological differences between men and women and stating that sex is determined by a person’s chromosomes.

David Bloch, who founded the snowboarding team at Woodstock Union High School in 2011, served as the head coach from its onset until he was fired in February. He was a volunteer coach for the first three years but subsequently became a part-time employee of the public school.

Although Bloch works a separate full-time job, he coached the snowboarding team for more than a decade “mostly as a service to the students and [to] give them an activity to compete in,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Matthew Hoffmann, who is representing Bloch in the lawsuit, told CNA. He remains in contact with at least a dozen alumni and served as a mentor both athletically and in social development, according to Hoffmann.

Bloch was fired on Feb. 9, just one day after he had a brief conversation with two students about the biological differences between men and women. The investigation was still ongoing when he was fired and Bloch never received the investigative report, despite asking for one repeatedly.

The lawsuit states that a male student expressed his opinion that it was unfair for biological males to compete against biological females in athletics and a female student responded by saying that view is transphobic.

Bloch responded by stating that males and females have different DNA, which leads them to develop different physical characteristics, according to the lawsuit. He added that those differences contribute to males generally having an advantage in athletic competition.

The conversation occurred before a competition against a team that had a student who identifies as transgender, but the conversation did not include that student and Bloch never referred to that student specifically, according to the lawsuit. It states that the conversation lasted less than three minutes and did not cause any disruptions before, during, or after the competition or on the bus ride home.

One day later, Bloch was terminated shortly after he was told that there was a complaint about the conversation. The termination notice claimed he “made reference to [a] student in a manner that questioned the legitimacy and appropriateness of the student competing on the girls’ team,” which allegedly violated an anti-harassment and anti-bullying policy.

Bloch was never given the opportunity to present witnesses or provide evidence to the investigation and school officials never informed him of his right to appeal the termination decision, according to the lawsuit.

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“Dave has led the Woodstock Union snowboarding program to enormous success in terms of both athletic accomplishment and personal growth of the snowboarders,” Hoffmann said in a statement. “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.”

The lawsuit alleges that Bloch’s termination violated the First Amendment’s protection against content and viewpoint discrimination and retaliation, arguing that he would not have been fired if he had not engaged in the constitutionally protected speech. It also alleges that the termination violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of procedural due process. The lawsuit cites other First Amendment violations in the termination.

Hoffmann told CNA that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that public school officials “can’t retaliate against employees for speaking out on a matter of public concern.”

“Somebody shouldn’t be fired merely for expressing [his] opinion [and] ... we appreciate Dave having the courage and standing up,” he said.

The lawsuit further alleges that the school district’s policies, as they are written and as they have been applied, also violate the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment ensures Dave, and every other American, can freely express his views on a matter of profound public concern without government punishment,” Hoffmann said in a statement. “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.”

Hoffmann told CNA that this type of retaliation is “a nationwide trend.” In 2021, the Loudoun County School Board in Virginia reached a settlement with teacher Tanner Cross after it had suspended him for objecting to proposed transgender policies. The settlement allowed him to keep his job.

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