SAU16 Superintendent David Ryan says he fully supports the one-game suspension of an Exeter High School football player last month, which has sparked a lawsuit by the boy and his mother.

“While the Exeter School District cannot comment on any individual coach’s playing decision as it pertains to a student, the districts within SAU 16 respect the right of coaches to make such decisions in a manner consistent with the standards for all student athletes,” the statement read.

Ryan’s statement, distributed by Manchester public relations firm Cookson Communications, highlighted the district’s student and athletic code of conduct, which require that students engage respectfully with one another.

His statement implied the athletic policy was the reason the student was suspended.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family by the nonprofit Christian policy group Cornerstone Action, claims the ninth-grader’s First Amendment rights of speech were violated because he asserted there are only two genders, male and female. He said the remarks were in private text messages sent off school grounds.

“It is important to note that a coach’s decision is different from a suspension from school, and that all student athletes are expected to serve as role models and to treat their fellow students with respect,” Ryan’s statement read.

The freshman student has not been identified because he’s a minor. He was originally given a one-week suspension from the football team after a meeting with vice principal Marcy Dovholuk and head football coach William Ball. That suspension was later reduced to one game.

The lawsuit seeks “nominal damages” from SAU 16 and asks the court to block the district from applying its transgender-identifying and gender-nonconforming students policy.

The policy states in part, “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.“

A report released in January by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire estimated that 48 of 196 school districts and charter schools in New Hampshire have policies about transgender-identifying and gender-nonconforming students.

Those policies require that school officials handle complaints alleging discrimination or harassment based on a person’s transgender identification or gender nonconformity in the same manner as other discrimination or harassment complaints.

The policies also spell out guidelines related to privacy, record keeping, pronoun use, gender-segregated activities, restroom and locker room accessibility, sports and dress codes.

“The districts’ transgender and gender nonconforming policies exist in order to meet the districts’ legal obligation under New Hampshire law to ensure that transgender students have equal access to educational opportunity and are protected from discrimination,” Ryan’s statement said.

Those policies do not mandate student discipline but instead recommend “corrective action” for alleged discrimination or harassment.

The superintendent’s statement said the media reporting of the story was inaccurate and incomplete.

“While we cannot reveal all of the facts at this time, due to the pending litigation and involvement of a minor, it is our belief that once all of the facts are reviewed as part of the legal process, it will be clear that no rights were violated,” the statement read.