When Dave Bloch founded the snowboarding program at Woodstock Union High School (WUHS) in 2011, he did so with the intention of helping students grow both inside and outside the scope of competition. Thanks to his dedication to the students he coached, he accomplished that goal.
Coach Bloch led the program as a volunteer for three years to grow its roots. In the decade-plus since he founded the program, he has coached at least three individual state champions, and the team has become a mainstay in the top three placements statewide. But all that success was seemingly ignored by school district officials after Coach Bloch had a simple conversation with some of his team members.
Read on to learn more about his story.
Who is Dave Bloch?
As the snowboarding coach at WUHS, Coach Bloch has led the program to enormous athletic success. But he is just as motivated by helping student-athletes achieve personal growth. He has seen them grow immensely in their personal lives during their time with the program, and he stays in contact with a dozen alumni of the snowboarding team.
Coach Bloch is also a Roman Catholic who believes that God creates human beings as male and female. Consistent with his faith—and with scientific evidence—he believes that chromosomes determine a person’s sex. So when he heard some of his student-athletes discussing the issue of males competing in female sports, he felt called to acknowledge both sides of the issue and calmly share with them his beliefs about the biological differences between men and women. That respectful expression of his beliefs ultimately got him fired.
In February 2023, the WUHS snowboarding team was set to compete against a team that included a male snowboarder who identifies as female—and who competes against other females. Before the competition, Coach Bloch overheard two of his student-athletes having a discussion about that male competing against females, and he stepped into the conversation.
Coach Bloch said that people can express themselves differently and that there can be masculine women and feminine men. But he also acknowledged the biological reality that males and females have different DNA, and he shared his belief that the physical differences between men and women give men an athletic advantage. (This belief is also supported by scientific evidence. Read more about that here.)
The conversation only lasted about three minutes, and no one was present other than Coach Bloch and the two snowboarders. Coach Bloch never referred to the male athlete on the opposing team who identifies as female, and the discussion remained respectful. Even though one of the students disagreed with Coach Bloch’s position, she thanked him for a “good conversation.”
Once the event began, both teams competed without any problems. The two teams and their coaches, including Coach Bloch, shared a bus home after the event. There was no tension on the bus, and Coach Bloch did not further discuss the issue of male athletes competing against females.
The next day, the superintendent of the school district presented Coach Bloch with a notice of “immediate termination.” The notice accused him of violating the district’s Prevention of Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying Policy. It also accused him of violating a similar policy of the Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees high school sports in Vermont.
Even though Coach Bloch never mentioned the transgender-identifying student directly, the notice accused him of making “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,” which it said was grounds for termination.
The superintendent admitted that the investigation into the conversation was not complete, but she fired Coach Bloch anyway and barred him from consideration for any future coaching positions within the entire school district. Coach Bloch never received the investigative report despite requesting it repeatedly. He was never informed of his alleged violations before his termination, and he was never informed of his right to appeal his termination.
In July 2023, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, alongside Allied Attorney Anthony Duprey, filed a lawsuit on Coach Bloch’s behalf to protect his First and 14th Amendment rights.
What’s at stake?
No one should lose their job for speaking the truth. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to peacefully share their beliefs without fear of government punishment. This means that government officials cannot terminate an employee simply because he expresses a belief that they do not like.
The freedom of speech extends to all views, not just the government’s prevailing orthodoxy. Americans must be able to speak freely even when they express a viewpoint some find controversial.
- February 2023: The Windsor Central Supervisory Union superintendent fired snowboarding coach Dave Bloch.
- July 2023: ADF attorneys and Allied Attorney Anthony Duprey filed a lawsuit on Coach Bloch’s behalf along with a motion for preliminary injunction seeking his immediate reinstatement.
The bottom line
Public schools can’t fire employees for respectful speech on a matter of public concern.