Teen Sues New Hampshire School Over Punishment for ‘Only Two Genders’ Comment

By Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.
November 16, 2021 Updated: November 16, 2021

A New Hampshire student is suing his high school for violating his right to free speech and religious beliefs after being disciplined for stating there are only two genders.

The freshman and football player for the school, identified as “M.P.” in the lawsuit, received a one-game suspension for violating the school district’s transgender student policy.

The student made the comments on a school bus and then later in a text exchange with another student off school grounds.

The student’s attorney, Ian Huyett of the Manchester-based Cornerstone Policy Research, said his client is seeking permanent relief from the school policy under protections for free speech and religious belief in the state constitution.

Huyett said the student is a practicing Catholic and has the constitutional right to hold the belief that there are only two genders.

“As the United States Supreme Court has said, students do not check their First Amendment Rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said Huyett.

“In New Hampshire,” he added, “we have a strong tradition of our state supreme court holding that our state constitutional protections are more protective of individual liberties than the corresponding federal right.”

District Superintendent Dave Ryan released a statement on the matter noting that the district had only just learned of the lawsuit on Nov. 9 and is in the process of reviewing it with legal counsel.

“We will be able to share a statement once we have completed that review,” Ryan said.

Calls made by The Epoch Times to the Exeter Regional Cooperative School Board, which enacted the gender policy, were not returned.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Nov. 4, the matter originated from a conversation the teenager was having with another student on a school bus.

It was about a request a female classmate made during their Spanish class that they use only non-binary pronouns in Spanish to address her.

It was another female student, said Huyett, who took offense to comments she overheard his client make in a conversation he was having with another student on a school bus ride home. They included the Spanish language not having non-binary pronouns.

According to Huyett, that student obtained his client’s phone number and initiated a texting debate over the issue. That student took screenshots of the texts and gave them to the school.

The following morning Huyette said his client was pulled out of class and told he was being disciplined for violating the school’s gender policy.

In another pending lawsuit against a New Hampshire school’s gender identity policy, a parent of a Gilford School District student was angered to learn the district’s policy permits and encourages school officials to hide disclosures students make about their sexual orientation from their parents.

The parent’s attorney, Rick Lehmann of the Concord law firm Lehmann Major List, said his client is also challenging the district’s policy for officials to issue no-trespass letters to anyone who doesn’t use non-gender pronouns on school grounds.

Huyett says he expects there will be more lawsuits to come in New Hampshire on the issue because so many public schools have adopted policies similar to the one being challenged.

Huyett’s legal fees in the case are being fully funded by the Cornerstone Policy Research, a nonprofit organization founded by 2020, and now 2022, New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate Karen Testerman.

Testerman said she founded Cornerstone because too many New Hampshire residents with Christian values were underrepresented in legal and political matters.  She said what happened to Huyett’s client is a prime example.

“It’s disturbing to have schools trying to control people’s thoughts by instituting this propaganda through alphabet policies,” she said.

The New Hampshire cases are the latest in a steady stream of lawsuits around the U.S. on school policies on the use of preferred pronouns.

Earlier in March, Virginia gym teacher Tanner Cross was suspended after refusing to use preferred pronouns of students over pronouns consistent with their original biological gender.

A judge later lifted the suspension and the Virginia Supreme Court, in ruling on an appeal of the court decision, ruled that the suspension violated the teacher’s First Amendment rights.

Also in March, an appeals court in Ohio sided with a college professor who claimed his right to religious beliefs were violated when he was disciplined by the Shawnee State University where he taught for refusing to call a transgender student by her preferred pronouns.

In the recent U.S. landmark case The United States vs. Varner, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the courts have no authority to compel the use of preferred pronouns because no federal statute gives them that authority.

Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.