Two high school softball coaches in East Texas are accused of maliciously outing a sophomore player as a lesbian to her mother, then kicking her off the team.
And Kilgore Independent School District officials are accused of defending the coaches’ actions by arguing that they were “legally obligated” to disclose the girl’s sexual orientation to her parents.
The student, identified as S.W., and her mother have filed a federal lawsuit against the coaches, the school district, and an assistant athletic director, accusing them of violating her privacy. The student and her mother are represented by the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project in the lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
The lawsuit alleges that the two coaches at Kilgore High School, Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, locked S.W. in a locker room in March 2009 and threatened and interrogated her. The coaches allegedly were angry because S.W. was dating a girl whom Newell may have previously dated.
“Fletcher asked S.W. if she was gay, and accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl. She also claimed that S.W. was spreading gossip about this other girl being ‘Coach Newell’s girlfriend,’” the lawsuit states. “The girl to whom Fletcher was referring had interacted with Newell at a number of school events. At the time of Fletcher and Newell’s confrontation, S.W. was dating that girl.”
When S.W. denied the allegations, the coaches reacted angrily, threatening to sue her and making menacing gestures. “S.W. was very afraid, and feared they might strike her,” the lawsuit states.
After Fletcher and Newell finally let S.W. leave the locker room, they promptly phoned her mother and asked her to meet them at the field. When the mother arrived, the coaches told her that her daughter was a lesbian and gave her the phone number of the girlfriend.
The coaches kicked S.W. off the softball team, but lied to other players by saying she had quit, according to the lawsuit. Their actions, “caused S.W. severe mental and emotional anguish, resulted in social isolation, and robbed her of the freedom to deal with her sexuality privately, at her own pace and on her own terms.”
When S.W.’s mother filed a complaint with the school district, officials responded by saying they were “legally obligated to share this information with the parent.”
“In other words, KISD’s policy mandates that teachers disclose students’ sexual orientation to their parents,” the suit states.
“Discrimination, bullying and the infliction of emotional trauma against students who are gay or believed to be gay is a nationally recognized problem,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants’ actions and policies exacerbate this problem and set a very harmful example to students, teachers, and parents in Kilgore ISD.”
According to the Kilgore News Herald, KISD Superintendent Jody Clements said the defendants don’t want to comment until they’ve had a chance to review the lawsuit.
“I haven’t seen any papers on it yet so I don’t have anything to say about it,” Clements told the News Herald on Monday, adding that the coaches also had not been served with the suit. “We feel confident that everything the district did was right.”
Read the full text of the lawsuit here.