Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Softball Coaches Out High School Lesbian, Toss Her Off Team

By Kilian Melloy -

Two high school softball coaches in East Texas allegedly confronted a student athlete, harangued her about dating another girl, informed her mother, and threw her off the team. Now the coaches, and the school district, are facing a federal lawsuit from the young woman and her mother--and the school district is claiming that the coaches were compelled by law to out the girl to her mother, reported the Dallas Voice on Dec. 23.

The suit, filed Dec. 20 by the Texas Civil Rights Project, identifies the high schooler as S.W., and says that the two coaches, Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, detained the girl in a locker room on March 2, 2009, and subjected her to questioning about her sexuality. "The coaches allegedly were angry because S.W. was dating a girl whom Newell may have previously dated," the Dallas Voice article said.

The suit claims, "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 girl to whom Fletcher was referring had interacted with Newell at a number of school events," the suit adds. "At the time of Fletcher and Newell’s confrontation, S.W. was dating that girl."

The coaches are employed at Kilgore High School in Kilgore, Texas, a community of about 11,000 people. The young women was a sophomore at the school at the time of the incident. The suit alleges that the three invaded the student’s privacy. The suit also names the assistant athletic director, Douglas Duke, and the school district.

A Dec. 22 article at Gawker noted that Newell had once had hopes of playing with the Independent Women’s Football League, and reported, "It’s not clear whether the other girl actually was Newell’s girlfriend, or whether Newell is herself gay," and adds that the coaches pressured S.W. to disclose her sexuality to her mother or else face being left out of that night’s softball game.

However, the coaches allegedly proceeded to phone S.W.’s mother and arrange to have her meet them at Kilgore High School, where they allegedly outed the girl to her mother. The lawsuit asserts that upon telling the student’s mother that S.W. was dating another girl, "Newell offered her the contact information for this ’girlfriend.’ She retrieved the phone number from her cell phone." After the meeting with S.W.’s mother, they cut the student athlete from the team.

The suit asserts that S.W.’s mother was "in shock after learning that her daughter had been confronted alone about her sexuality by two teachers who she was supposed to trust," reported Courthouse News Service on Dec. 22.

Gawker said that the girl’s mother had made repeated complaints about the way the coaches had treated her daughter, all to no avail. The suit recounted that school officials "did nothing to investigate or discipline Fletcher and Newell, and did not even inform [the student’s mother] about the possibility of filing a formal complaint until five months later. No disciplinary action was taken against Fletcher or Newell, effectively ratifying and condoning their behavior."

"We feel confident we handled it the right way," the superintendent of the school district, Jody Clements, told local newspaper the Houston Press. "But that’s why there is a legal system. We’ll proceed and let the courts decide what was right."

Lawyer Jim Harrington told the media that S.W. "is remarkably strong and resilient, especially considering this happened in East Texas." Added the Civil Rights Project attorney, "Who knows what would’ve happened if that wasn’t the case, and that’s actually what motivated [the girl and her mother] to come forward." Harrington spoke against the way the school district views the situation, saying, "We want to change the way they do business in Kilgore. They have to learn to respect the rights of the students."

The suit says that having been locked in a room with the two teachers constituted "de facto seizure of SW’s person and an unreasonable restraint on SW’s liberty to leave this hostile environment," and alleges that the young woman’s emotional state and her schoolwork suffered as a result. "Their unconstitutional and unethical action 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," according to the student’s mother.

The young woman’s mother related that the "formal justification [Kilgore ISD] provided for Fletcher and Newell’s nonconsensual disclosure of SW’s sexual orientation was that they were ’legally obligated to share this information with the parent,’ " Courthouse News Service reported. "In other words, KISD’s policy mandates that teachers disclose students’ sexual orientation to their parents."

Added the youth’s mother, "Fletcher, Newell, and KISD have absolutely no legitimate state interest in the disclosure of students’ sexual orientation to parents. Doing so is a severe and traumatic violation of students’ privacy, and lacks any legitimate academic, disciplinary, or administrative purpose."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

No comments:

Post a Comment