Kilgore ISD sued for outing lesbian student to mother
Dec. 22, 2010 at 7 p.m.
The parent of a Kilgore ISD student has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and three of its staff members alleging they violated her daughter's privacy by disclosing her sexual orientation to her mother.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Tyler by Barbara Wyatt, she says softball coaches Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell confronted her daughter in a locker room on March 2, 2009, and interrogated her about her sexuality.
"Fletcher, Newell and KISD have absolutely no legitimate state interest in the disclosure of students' sexual orientation to parents," the lawsuit states. "Doing so is a severe and traumatic violation of students' privacy, and lacks any legitimate academic, disciplinary, or administrative purpose."
The two coaches as well as Assistant Athletic Director Douglas Duke are being sued. Duke is being sued, according to the lawsuit, because he did not properly train and supervise Fletcher and Newell.
In the lawsuit, the daughter is identified only by the initials S.W.
Superintendent Jody Clements said he could not comment on the suit because the district had not been served and must consult its attorney. However, he discussed earlier district actions connected with the situation.
"This has been an ongoing item," Clements said. "It started in March of 2009. We have gone through the grievance process at the school district. The mother has chosen to pursue it further. She wasn't happy with our solution."
Clements said he could not discuss details of the grievance process.
According to the lawsuit, on March 2, 2009, an unscheduled, off-campus softball practice was called. When the student arrived at the field, Fletcher and Newell dismissed the rest of the team. The coaches called the student into an empty locker room, locked the door and accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl and of being homosexual. At the time of the confrontation, the two girls were dating, the lawsuit said.
The coaches also accused the student of spreading gossip about the other girl being Newell's girlfriend, the lawsuit says.
The student 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 the mother 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 girl was removed from the softball team, jeopardizing her educational opportunities, the lawsuit said.
"Her trust and respect in adult authority has been irreparably damaged, and she has suffered significant social ostracism," the lawsuit states. "Moreover, Fletcher and Newell's actions demoralized (her). Her academic performance suffered as a result, and her long-held ambition of attending college to study kinesiology and sports medicine, in emulation of her one-time role models, was destroyed."
The mother contacted the school principal, assistant athletic director and Clements, the lawsuit said. She 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. The mother was not aware of the time limit, the lawsuit stated.
She filed a Level Two grievance with Clements on Sept. 16, 2009. The lawsuit stated Clements defended the coaches and did not offer her a remedy.
"The formal justification provided for Fletcher and Newell's nonconsensual disclosure of (the daughter's) sexual orientation was that they were 'legally obligated to share this information with the parent,' " the lawsuit states. "In other words, KISD's policy mandates that teachers disclose students' sexual orientation to their parents."
The mother filed a Level Three grievance with the school board on Oct. 30, 2009, and the board agreed with Clements, the lawsuit said.
Since March 2009, the daughter has suffered emotional and mental anguish, the lawsuit said. The mother is seeking monetary compensation and for the district and its staff to be prohibited from disclosing students' sexual orientation without their consent.