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Kilgore ISD 'outing' case slated for November

By Christina Lane
April 8, 2011 at 2:33 a.m.

The case of a Kilgore ISD student who accuses officials and the school district of outing her to her mother is slated for a jury trial Nov. 7 and representatives of both parties are scheduled to have a telephone conference today, according to a document filed this week in federal court.

Barbara Wyatt filed a lawsuit on behalf of her teenage daughter, Skye, in December claiming Kilgore ISD softball coaches Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell confronted her daughter in a locker room March 2, 2009, and interrogated her about her sexuality. Assistant Athletic Director Douglas Duke also was sued, according to the lawsuit, because he did not properly train and supervise Fletcher and Newell.

The district is being sued because it has "an unconstitutional policy that its staff are under a legal obligation to disclose the sexual orientation of their students to parents, without consent and without any genuine, legitimate, and compelling governmental interest in doing so," according to court documents.

In its response, the district denied Wyatt's allegations and stated that Wyatt did not use all administrative remedies available. The response also said Fletcher, Newell and Duke should be granted qualified immunity because they were "performing discretionary duties, in good faith, within the course and scope of (their) employment duties."

According to the lawsuit, on March 2, 2009, an unscheduled, off-campus softball practice was called. When Skye Wyatt arrived at the field, Fletcher and Newell dismissed the rest of the team. The coaches called her into an empty locker room, locked the door and accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl and of being homosexual, according to the lawsuit. At the time of the confrontation, the two girls were dating, the lawsuit said.

Wyatt denied the accusations, and the coaches threatened to sue her for slander, told her she could not play in the softball game and said they were going to tell her mother she was involved with another girl, according to the lawsuit.

The coaches called Barbara Wyatt and asked her to meet them at the field, which she did 40 minutes later, and was told her daughter was homosexual, according to the lawsuit. The mother and daughter then met on the field, but the coaches dismissed them, the lawsuit said.

Barbara Wyatt filed a Level One grievance on Aug. 24, 2009, with the high school principal, but the claims were dismissed because she had waited too long to file the grievance, according to the lawsuit. She was not aware of the time limit, the lawsuit stated.

She filed a Level Two grievance with KISD Superintendent Jody Clements on Sept. 16, 2009. The lawsuit stated Clements defended the coaches and did not offer her a remedy.

She filed a Level Three grievance with the school board on Oct. 30, 2009, and the board agreed with Clements, the lawsuit said.

According to a Joint Discovery/Case Management Plan filed in federal court, Wyatt's attorneys state discovery will be needed on the events of March 2, 2009; any past instances in which Kilgore ISD employees disclosed private student information, action take and any further disclosures of private information about Skye Wyatt; pre-existing knowledge or bias about Skye Wyatt; policies and procedures regarding protecting and disclosing private student information; and Skye Wyatt's injuries and damages.

The district's attorneys responded that they object to discovery regarding past instances of disclosure of private student information, action taken and any further disclosure of private information about Skye Wyatt as well as pre-existing knowledge related to Wyatt.

The case is slated for jury trial at 9 a.m. Nov. 7 in Tyler federal court.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 20.



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