Rose Johnson, a senior at Long Trail School in Dorset, has played varsity girls’ basketball for the past two seasons but her presence on the team as a transgender athlete has prompted a federal lawsuit. She is seen here playing against Leland & Gray in the Green Mountain Holiday Tournament in December.
Randolph T. Holhut/Commons file photo
Rose Johnson, a senior at Long Trail School in Dorset, has played varsity girls’ basketball for the past two seasons but her presence on the team as a transgender athlete has prompted a federal lawsuit. She is seen here playing against Leland & Gray in the Green Mountain Holiday Tournament in December.

Local teams well-represented at North-South games

Our four local high schools were well represented at the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association's (VBCA) Senior All-Star Games at Windsor High School on March 16.

Unfortunately, their presence wasn't enough as the North all-stars swept all four games.

On the South's Division III-IV girls' team was Eryn Ross and Delaney Lockerby of Bellows Falls and Maggie Parker and Mary Sanderson of Leland & Gray. Parker scored eight points as the North won, 49-46, in the closest game of the day.

The South's Division III-IV boys' team had Colby Dearborn and Jaxon Clark of Bellows Falls and Noah Dornburgh of Twin Valley. The North rolled to a 94-65 victory. Dearborn, who also represented the South in the three-point shooting contest, scored eight points.

The South's Division I-II girls' team had Mallory Newton of Brattleboro. The North squad cruised to a 68-49 win.

No Brattleboro players were selected to the South's Division I-II boys' team. The North finished their sweep with a 97-75 win in that game.

The day wasn't a total loss for Windham County basketball, as Alan Libardoni of Brattleboro was honored as one of the VBCA's Officials of the Year.

A question of fairness

• Last March, Mid-Vermont Christian Academy (MVC), a private school in Quechee, made the national news when it forfeited a girls' basketball playoff game to Long Trail School (LTS) of Dorset because Long Trail had a transgender player on its roster.

The school said it believed the presence of Rose Johnson on the Long Trail squad jeopardized "the fairness of the game and the safety of our players."

In response, the executive council of the Vermont Principals' Association (VPA), the governing body for sports and extracurricular activities, said that Mid-Vermont Christian violated Vermont's nondiscrimination and public accommodation laws by refusing to compete against LTS and ruled that MVC is ineligible to participate any future VPA-run academic or sports competitions.

Mid-Vermont Christian in turn filed a lawsuit last November in federal court in Burlington challenging Vermont's anti-discrimination laws and saying those laws violated the school's constitutional right to freedom of religious expression.

According to the suit, Vermont has violated the school's First Amendment right to believe "that sex is based on biology, unchangeable, and predetermined by God."

While banned by the VPA, Mid-Vermont Christian continued to play basketball in the 2023-24 season, except it played against other Christian schools around New England. Also, Vermont students from towns without their own high school are attending MVC, with the state paying the cost of tuition, despite MVC's beliefs about transgender students.

Trans athletes have been targeted by a variety of laws and initiatives in conservative states. According to the Movement Advancement Project (, 24 states have enacted bans in the past four years that prevent transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. Vermont is one of the 25 states, along with the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories, without such a ban.

I saw Johnson, a senior forward, and her teammates play against Leland & Gray in the Green Mountain Holiday Tournament in Chester on Dec. 14. She didn't look out of place on the floor. Yes, she is tall at 6-foot-1, but I've seen taller and more burly girls play high school basketball over the years. And the Leland & Gray defenders did a good job containing Johnson, holding her to seven points.

The Long Trail Mountain Lions have plenty of other good players and didn't rely solely upon Johnson over the course of the season. LTS earned the top seed in Division IV and made it all the way to the championship game at the Barre Auditorium on March 9, but they were beaten by West Rutland, 49-38. The Golden Horde won their third straight state title as Johnson was held to five points by an exceptionally good West Rutland squad.

In other words, the walls of "the Aud" didn't come tumbling down because a transgender player was on the floor, and Johnson did not pose an unfair advantage or safety risk to the girls she played against.

"There is no evidence of transgender girls dominating girls' sports in Vermont or creating unfair competition," the VPA wrote last year in response to MVC's contentions. "Nor is there any evidence of transgender girls injuring others when they play on girls' teams in our state."

Vermont isn't perfect in terms of protecting LGBTQ+ folk, but VPA and state policy are very clear - discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity is illegal. While four Republican lawmakers in the Vermont Legislature introduced a bill to add Vermont to the list of states banning transgender students from school sports, it received little support.

According to The Boston Globe, Mid-Vermont Christian is getting help with its federal lawsuit from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative organization that has been involved in numerous cases around the country involving transgender folk.

One of ADF's senior counsels, Ryan Tucker, wrote in the federal lawsuit that "the state of Vermont has adopted its own orthodoxy on human sexuality and gender. Simply put, the state believes sex is mutable and biological differences do not matter. The state is entitled to its own views, but it is not entitled, nor is it constitutional, to force private religious schools across the state to follow that orthodoxy."

While the American Civil Liberties Union is not involved in this case, the Globe reported the ACLU is keeping an eye on it, quoting Harper Seldin, a staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project, who said the ACLU sees the Vermont case as part of a nationwide effort by conservatives to roll back protections for transgender and nonbinary students.

"I'm skeptical of the attempt to use the First Amendment to impose their views on other people," Seldin said of Mid-Vermont Christian's contention that its religious freedom is being infringed.

This case seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which in its current configuration is predisposed to supporting religious liberty at the expense of civil rights. My opinion on this? I agree with what Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said when the Republican bill banning transgender folk in school athletics was introduced in the Legislature: "Let them be who they are and let them play."

Sorry, Abby

• Last week, I inadvertently left out Bellows Falls guard Abby Nystrom, a ninth-grader, from the girls' Division III-IV Dream Dozen team as selected by the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association.

Nystrom had an exceptional season with the Terriers and was deserving of the honor, especially for her tenacious defense that helped lead her team into the Division III quarterfinals. She will be a key member of the BF varsity for another three seasons.

Seventh annual Rockin'Ham 5K set for April 6

• Central Elementary School in Bellows Falls will host the seventh annual Rockin'Ham 5K on Saturday, April 6. The 5-kilometer event will begin and end at the school. Runners may register online at, download a paper registration at, or pick on up at Central School, 50 School Street Extension. Same-day registration will begin at 9 a.m., and the race start time is 10:30 a.m.

"We are so excited to be hosting our seventh annual Rockin'Ham 5K," said race co-coordinator Kerry Pickering in a news release. "This event brings out the best in our community. So many local businesses show their support for our students and our school by sponsoring the race or by providing an item for our raffle. We would love to include every business in town, so please reach out to the school if you haven't yet joined us. This is a super fun, family-friendly event, and if you haven't come to a previous Rockin'Ham 5K, this is the year to do it!"

The raffle drawing will be held on the same date with dozens of prizes to be given away. Raffle tickets may be purchased from any Central School student or by contacting the school at 802-463-4346. The school is still seeking sponsors, and raffle prize donations continue to be accepted as well. If you wish to provide a monetary sponsorship or donate a raffle prize, contact Central School at 802-463-4346. All proceeds from the race benefit Central School, and are used for programs, equipment, field trips, and residencies for students.

Senior bowling roundup

• Week 11 of the winter/spring season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on March 14 saw first place High Rollers (38-17) have a 5-0 week, while Stayin' Alive (32-23) and Stepping Stones II (30-25) also had 5-0 weeks to move into second and third place, respectively. Four Seasons (27-28), is in fourth, followed by Good Times (25-30), Hairiers (21-34), Four Pins (19-36), and Slow Movers (16-39).

Nancy Dalzell had the women's high handicap game (287) and series (721). Rick Westcott had the men's high handicap game (246), and Robert Rigby had the high handicap series (675). High Rollers had the high team handicap game (937) and series (2,618).

Rigby had the men's high scratch series (650) with games of 227, 225, and 198. Gary Montgomery had a 571 series with games of 199 and 192, while Westcott had a 536 series with a 201 game, Warren Corriveau Sr. had a 516 series with a 194 game, and Charlie Marchant had a 505 series with a 190 game.

Dalzell had the women's high scratch series (559) with games of 164 and 162. Carol Gloski rolled a 160 game.

Randolph T. Holhut, deputy editor of this newspaper, has written this column since 2010 and has covered sports in Windham County since the 1980s. Readers can send him sports information at [email protected].

This Sports column by Randolph T. Holhut was written for The Commons.

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