An Exeter High School freshman football player is suing SAU 16 and a vice principal over his athletic suspension due to a private text and conversation in which he said there are only two genders, male and female.

According to he lawsuit a discussion about gender was prompted by a request during the student's Spanish class during which a fellow student during an introduction to the class requested to be called "C" and the pronoun "they" in accordance with the the district Gender Nonconforming Students policy.

The policy gives students 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 (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student's gender identity) is a violation of this policy," reads the district policy.

The student while thinking about the request did not think there is an equivalent word to "they" in Spanish used as a gender neutral word, according to the lawsuit.  He stated his opinion to a friend that there are only two genders on the school bus ride home. Another student, a female, overheard the conversation, and later continued the conversation via text during which the student called her a "bozo" when she could not convince him otherwise.

Private 'Conversation' Under Scrutiny

The student the next day was confronted with printed copies of the text conversation by Vice Principal Marcy Dovholuk and head football coach/Athletic Director William Ball who told him he needed to respect how people identify. He was suspended one week from playing football because of the exchange. Ball later reduced the penalty to just one game.

The lawsuit contends that the suspension is a violation of the state's general free speech protection. The student will always be in violation of the policy because no amount of punishment will change the student's mind about gender, according to the lawsuit.

"While the student will otherwise abide by the rules of the school district and the instructions of the Vice Principal, Coach Ball, and other authorities, he will also continue to express—in appropriate contexts—his constitutionally-protected opinion that only two genders exist," the lawsuit states.

The student seeks "nominal damages" from Dovholuk for the suspension and an injunction preventing the gender policy from being used to punish anyone who expresses their belief that there are only two genders.

A spokesman for SAU 16 on Friday afternoon did not respond to Seacoast Current's request for comment.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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