BREAKING: Coach settles with Waxahachie school that allegedly fired her for being gay

Williams.Nikki

Nichole 'Nikki' Williams

A lesbian teacher and coach reportedly has reached a settlement with the Waxahachie charter school where she accused administrators of firing her due to her sexual orientation last year.

“Due to ongoing inquiries from the media and public, LifeSchool of Dallas and Nichole Williams are issuing the following joint statement,” reads an email sent to Dallas Voice tonight by Williams’ fiancee, Jen DeSaegher. “Ms. Williams and LifeSchool have discussed and amicably resolved all concerns related to Ms. Williams’ previous employment with LifeSchool. Both LifeSchool and Ms. Williams would like to thank students, parents and the community for their support, encouragement and involvement. The LifeSchool leadership team wishes the best for Ms. Williams’ and her future endeavors. Likewise, Ms. Williams would like to thank LifeSchool and its students and parents for the opportunity to coach and teach.”

The statement provides no further details.

Williams, 26, taught 9th-grade geography at Life School Waxahachie, one of the charter school’s five campuses in North Texas. She also served as varsity girls basketball coach and assistant volleyball coach. As we reported, Williams was terminated a day before the basketball season began in October. She filed a grievance with the school alleging she was fired based on her sexual orientation, which reportedly became known to administrators after DeSaegher began attending volleyball games this fall.

Parents and students rallied in support of Williams, submitting a petition to the school calling for her reinstatement and demanding to meet with administrators. Although Williams initially sought reinstatement, she later said she would settle for severance pay and removal of the termination from her personnel file so she could resume her career elsewhere.

With the help of public pressure, Williams apparently managed to negotiate a settlement even though she had little legal recourse. Texas is one of 29 states that lack bans on anti-gay job discrimination, which isn’t prohibited by federal law, either. And, although case law generally protects gay teachers at public schools, experts say courts have ruled that those provisions don’t apply to charter schools, even though they’re taxpayer-funded.

—  John Wright

Fired coach addresses school board; National Center for Lesbian Rights may get involved

Williams.Nikki

Nikki Williams

I wasn’t able to make it to Lancaster on Wednesday for the meeting I told you about earlier this week, at which fired lesbian coach Nichole “Nikki” Williams and her supporters publicly addressed the board of directors at Life School. But Williams fiancee, Jen DeSaegher, forwarded the below email she sent to the couple’s friends recapping the meeting:

We left the meeting with the feeling that it went well. Mind you, it wasn’t an interactive discussion with the administration and the Board of Directors–so there wasn’t any feedback. The meeting was merely an opportunity for the public (and particularly Nikki) to share our thoughts on Nikki’s termination.

About 8-9 of us shared our thoughts in 3 minute increments (as allowed by the board. There was a 30 minute time limit).

What I found most touching, was that the board members seemed very receptive. They were attentive, and there was a certain type of peace in the room that is hard to describe. I truly attribute that to the prayers being sent our way–(especially those of my faithful mom, Jani DeSaegher–the most amazing prayer warrior I know).

I think the most meaningful moment, for many of us, was when Jan Boyce spoke. Jan is the mother of Kate, a student Nikki taught five years ago–during her first year of teaching (at Red Oak). Jan spoke of Nikki’s impact on her daughter’s life, and how she couldn’t be more proud that Nikki is her daughter’s role model. As Jan started to cry, Nikki did too, and it was definitely a bit of an emotional moment.

As far as what’s next? We actually don’t know. Our lawyer will likely submit one final letter, asking for the termination to be removed from her record. That was the primary focus during all of the speeches we presented yesterday.

We can’t thank you enough for the continued support, sweet thoughts, kindness, and awesome texts. Please continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of the Board Members (and in the hearts of Nikki & myself), that the matter will be resolved, and that Nikki will have the peace to move forward.

We know that everything happens for a reason, and we continue to believe and keep the faith. Thanks again for all of the support.

DeSaegher added the following in her email to me:

Overall, it really did feel like the board was listening. The feelings in the room were genuine, and they really were attentive. The looks on their faces were soft. There was a peace in the room. Of course [Life School HR Director] Charles Pulliam sat on the side and had a bit of a beaten look on his face. We wondered if once we left, the Board members would shut the door and say to him, “Listen…why did we bypass all of the progressive discipline here and go directly to a termination for someone who was so obviously loved, respected and revered? This has caused a huge mess. Was this really necessary?”

We’ll let you know what happens next, if anything.

Coincidentally, I received an email Wednesday from Helen Carroll, sports project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who was seeking contact info for Williams after reading my original story about the case. “We would like to see if we could be of any help to Coach Williams,” Carroll wrote. “If you could even forward my contact information to her, that will at least give her the opportunity to talk to a legal organization that has a successful track record in dealing with school systems that operate in this manner.”

I’ve put them in touch, so I’m thinking we haven’t heard the last of this.

—  John Wright

LGBT supporters invited to attend school board meeting on behalf of fired lesbian coach

Nikki Williams, left. and fiancee Jen DeSaegher

A few weeks back we told you about Nichole “Nikki” Williams, the openly gay teacher and basketball coach who alleges she was fired by a charter high school in Waxahachie because of her sexual orientation.

Williams’ fiancee, Jen DeSaegher, said today that she’s encouraging concerned members of the LGBT community to attend a meeting of Life School’s Board of Directors this Wednesday, Nov. 30. Life School operates five schools in North Texas including the school where Williams worked for the last three years.

DeSaegher said she plans to attend the meeting along with Williams and a few of their friends. They plan to present the board with a petition signed by parents and students calling for Williams’ reinstatement; recommendation letters written by parents on behalf of Williams; and about 25-30 letters students have written to Williams.

DeSaegher said she’s hoping others from the LGBT community will attend the meeting for moral support and to show that gay people are everywhere and care deeply about the issue.

The board meeting begins at 3 p.m. in the upstairs conference room at Life School’s central office, at 950 S. Interstate 35 East in Lancaster.

For more info contact DeSaegher at jdesaegher@hotmail.com.

—  John Wright