After bullying and transphobic news reports, a trans teen and her family in Vermont are facing an onslaught of hateful messages, threats, and harassment.
The 14-year-old teen, who attends Randolph Union High School, plays high school volleyball.
The teen’s mom told VTDigger that her daughter had been playing for weeks without incident, but on September 28, Burlington-based CBS affiliate WCAX aired a segment in which it claimed one of the teen’s cisgender teammates, Blake Allen, objected to the trans student using the girls’ locker room.
In the segment, which appears to have been removed from WCAX’s website, Allen claimed the trans student made an ‘inappropriate” comment to other players, using transphobic language and referring to the trans teen as a “biological boy” throughout her interview.
Right-wing news outlets like Fox News and the New York Post elevated the story.
The resulting backlash, the trans student’s mother said, has been “an absolute nightmare.”
“My family is in constant pain from the lies and harassment,’ the mother, whose name is being kept anonymous to protect her identity, told VTDigger.
The mother told VTDigger and the Vermont-based independent newspaper Seven Days that the narrative that emerged from the WCAX story was false.
Rather than being the one making inappropriate remarks, her daughter was the one being bullied in the locker room.
According to the mother, the 14-year-old was changing in the locker room when three other players started yelling at her to stop looking at them and get out.
They yelled again when she popped her head around a corner to ask a question. After the teen left the locker room, the volleyball coach told her she overheard what happened and would report it to school administration.
The mother also disputed Allen’s assertion that other team members objected to her daughter’s presence in the locker room, noting that the team had played together and her daughter had used the locker room, without incident, for weeks.
She later followed up with an email to WCAX, labeling the story “inaccurate” and “just altogether ugly.”
The mother said her daughter hadn’t heard that kind of blatant transphobia since moving to the school district. Nevertheless, the situation spiraled quickly, with the family receiving hateful messages, including many that misgendered their daughter.
The mother says she has since reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont and the LGBTQ media advocacy organization group GLAAD for assistance.
Initial media reports claimed that the entire volleyball team was “banned” from the locker room after people complained about the incident.
But Layne Millington, the superintendent of the Orange Southwest Supervisory District, pushed back against that claim.
“The locker rooms were not shut down as a punishment or a consequence,” Millington said. “They were shut down really to kind of ensure student safety while the investigation is conducted, and the shutdown applied equally to all the members of the girls volleyball team.”
Millington also told VTDigger that the school is currently looking into a complaint of harassment, hazing or bullying. He said he could not elaborate due to federal privacy laws.
According to the Vermont Department of Education’s best practices for schools regarding trans and nonbinary students: “A transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity.”
That hasn’t prevented an outpouring of hate, though. On Oct. 1, the school district’s website was hacked and filled with “hate speech, symbols, and photographs targeting transgender individuals,” according to a message from Millington seen by VTDigger.
Similar attacks have been lobbed against schools with pro-transgender policies, with some cisgender students claiming the presence of trans-identifying or nonbinary youth in locker rooms violates their right to bodily privacy.
The school district disabled its website and social media accounts in response. They also contacted local and federal law enforcement officials about the matter, with Millington saying the FBI is now investigating some of those threats.
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