No one should lose his job for speaking the truth.
Most people would agree with this principle, but at Woodstock Union High School (WUHS) in Vermont, snowboarding coach David Bloch was fired for doing just that.
He wasn’t speaking in front of a classroom. He wasn’t addressing the school or his entire team. Instead, he simply had a casual three-minute conversation with two students on his snowboarding team before a competition.
What truth did school administrators find so egregious? The truth that males and females are biologically different and that such differences generally give males advantages in sports compared to their female counterparts.
Expressing these basic facts, the superintendent said, warranted the coach’s immediate termination.
Coach Bloch founded the snowboarding program at WUHS in 2011. Even though he had a full-time job taking up most of his time, he wanted to start the snowboarding team “as a service to the students and to give them an activity to compete in,” says Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Mathew Hoffmann. Almost immediately, the program began to thrive.
For the first three years of the snowboarding team’s existence, Coach Bloch coached it as a volunteer. He dedicated his time and efforts to the students who competed on his team without expecting anything in return, all while working a full schedule at a separate job to earn a living. He knew that was what it would take to get the snowboarding program off the ground.
Coach Bloch’s commitment quickly started to pay off, both for the team itself and the individual athletes. In the 12 years since the snowboarding team began, WUHS has consistently won top-three places statewide. At least three individual snowboarders from Coach Bloch’s teams have won state championships.
Even more important, Coach Bloch has seen many of his athletes grow significantly outside of sports. Some athletes who were reluctant to join the team initially have gone on to become more committed to snowboarding, physical fitness, and even academics thanks to their coach’s mentorship.
Coach Bloch has developed deep and lasting relationships with many of his athletes, so much so that he regularly keeps in contact with about a dozen alumni of the team. The bonds that he has forged with those he coaches go far beyond just snowboarding instruction. Yet none of that seemed to matter to the school district after Coach Bloch expressed a view that officials didn’t like.
A biological fact
On one February day in 2023, Coach Bloch and his team were gathered in a lodge waiting for a competition to start. That day, Coach Bloch’s team was set to compete against a team from another district that had a male snowboarder who identifies as a female and competes in the female division.
In the lodge, Coach Bloch overheard two of his athletes discussing whether it was fair for boys to compete against girls. As a Christian, Coach Bloch believes that God created everyone in His image, male and female, and that sex cannot be changed.
Coach Bloch joined the conversation to share his views. He told the two athletes that he believed people can express themselves in unique ways, but he also made it clear that they cannot change biological reality. He explained that men and women have different DNA, and DNA cannot change.
Since men have different DNA than women, they also develop differently. Coach Bloch explained his belief, backed by scientific research, that these differences generally give male athletes an advantage over female athletes in competition.
Throughout the entire conversation, Coach Bloch was respectful of everyone’s views. Even though one of the athletes disagreed with his position, the discussion remained civil and productive, and the student thanked him for a “good conversation.” Only Coach Bloch and his two athletes were present for the conversation, and Coach Bloch never mentioned the athlete on the opposing team who identified as transgender.
Later that day, the competition went off without a hitch. The two teams even shared a bus ride home together. There was no tension on the bus, and the subject of males competing against females did not come up again.
But none of that stopped the school district from targeting Coach Bloch.
Punished for his beliefs
The day after the competition, the school district superintendent informed Coach Bloch of his “immediate termination” for supposedly violating the school district’s Prevention of Hazing, Harassment, and Bullying Policy and Vermont Principals’ Association policy.
She 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.”
The superintendent never provided Coach Bloch with the investigative report or gave him the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence in his defense. She also never told him about his right to appeal, yet she barred him from consideration for any future jobs in the school district. In short, Coach Bloch’s punishment was swift and forceful.
Government officials can’t fire someone for respectfully sharing his beliefs on a matter of public concern. It’s a clear violation of the First Amendment, and that’s why ADF attorneys are helping Coach Bloch defend his rights.
Teachers’ and coaches’ free speech is protected
Speaking the truth shouldn’t have cost Coach Bloch his job.
Everyone, including public employees like Coach Bloch, has the right to express his or her opinions on matters of public concern, like the appropriateness of male athletes competing against females.
Coach Bloch wasn’t speaking on behalf of the school or as its employee but as a private citizen during a time when players and coaches were free to attend to personal matters. That speech is protected by the First Amendment, as the Supreme Court made clear in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District in 2022.
No one should be fired for stating the biological fact that men and women are different.
- 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.
- January 2024: ADF attorneys appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit after the district court denied Coach Bloch’s request for immediate reinstatement.