Lesbian Outed By High School Softball Coach Declares Victory in Fight With Kilgore ISD

Categories: Legal Battles

SkyeWyatt2.jpg
Nine months ago, Skye Wyatt's legal fortunes suffered what appeared to be a serious blow when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that Kilgore ISD had violated no established law when her high school softball coaches told her mother she was a lesbian.

Now, Wyatt's legal team is declaring victory. Texas Civil Rights Project, which helped represent her throughout her four-year legal odyssey, announced Friday that the district has agreed to pay its former student "significant monetary compensation" (the Longview News-Journal says $77,000) and implement a 30-minute teacher training session designed to protect the privacy of LGBT students as part of an agreement to bring the case to a close.

See also: Texas School Districts Are Allowed to Out Gay Kids to Their Parents, Court Rules

"We've got the first federal court in the area finding that information related to sexual orientation is covered by constitutional privacy rights, so that's a good thing," says TCRP legal director Wayne Krause Yang, referring to a lower court's ruling that Wyatt's right to privacy outweighed Kilgore ISD's interest in outing her to her mom. "We've got widespread information out there in the media and in the public that this sort of outing needs to be avoided, [and] policies to ensure this won't happen again."

He adds, "I don't think that we could ask for much more."

So what changed? Nothing really, Yang says. The 5th Circuit's decision was extremely narrow, addressing the question of whether there was any applicable legal precedent establishing the privacy rights of gay high school students rather than whether the students are entitled to such rights. And while the appeals court dismissed one of Wyatt's claims against her former softball coaches, two others were allowed to proceed. With the trial scheduled to begin on March 3, Kilgore ISD opted to cut its losses and settle.

The victory, though, is far from total. A settlement sets no legal precedent, and Kilgore ISD still doesn't acknowledge that it did anything wrong. On the contrary, it says it only stopped fighting the suit because its insurer decided it would be too expensive.

"The Kilgore ISD board believes that the actions of its employees were in all things lawful," the district's school board said in a written statement. "The Kilgore ISD board believes that the pre-existing policies of the district were much more than adequate, and the board policies in existence at the time will continue to remain in full force and effect. No policies are going to be withdrawn, changed or modified. No new policies are going to be adopted. The plaintiff's counsel in this case attempted to bully the board into changing its policies by threatening long, expensive and protracted litigation. The Kilgore ISD Board refused.

"The Kilgore ISD Board of Trustees has no power to oppose the payment of settlement funds in this case, that matter being solely within the discretion of the insurance carrier."

So, while the $77,000 is good news for Wyatt, and while Kilgore's new teacher training session is good news for other LGBT students in the districts, this is far from a legal spanking.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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54 comments
battyattybasher
battyattybasher

I don't get  it.  Everybody knows that school outings require parental approval.

Wait ... what?

Anonamouse
Anonamouse

A girl softball player in High School turned out to be a lesbian?

I'm shocked. SHOCKED.

ruddski
ruddski

I dated a bi girl after splitting with the wife, she was a knockout, 27, I was 48.

We were discussing where our relationship could possibly go, and I asked her to envision introducing me to her dad, almost my age.

She said " he might see it as a step in the right direction"

Cracks me up to this day.

jesdynf
jesdynf

When you fuck up, you pay the fuckup tax. The board is pretty fortunate because they're going to skate on how their conduct is going to impact their insurance rate, but that doesn't mean the fuckup tax isn't getting paid.

ruddski
ruddski

If The school has no right to inform parents of a minor is engaged in lesbian behavior, is the school also barred from informing parents if the minor is banging the entire football team every Saturday night? Or do these supposed privacy rights extend only to LGBT relationships?

I'm assuming they deduced her orientation due to an observed relationship or activity. Did the school inform the girls's partner's parents as well?

What if the lesbian partner for whatever reason outs the minor, is she then legally liable for the outing, open to lawsuit?

What, exactly, would be the damages? How did they arrive at the dollar amount?

It's an interesting case, too bad there was no legal outcome. How do we know that the parents were unaware of her orientation, and that it wasn't just a way of getting some cash?

All that aside, I find the school's behavior a bit vindictive and UN-necessary, overstepping their bounds as a governmental agency.

fredgarvinmp713
fredgarvinmp713

The case is a little more complicated than some news has implied.

This started when the coaches called an unscheduled, off campus meeting, then dismissed everyone but Skye Wyatt, and confronted her about an alleged homosexual relationship.

From the Kilgore News-Herald:

"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."

So the coaches were really fired up about the fact she was dating another girl on the team.

http://m.news-journal.com/mobile/news/local/kilgore-isd-pays-k-in-outing-lawsuit/article_90cb2e49-b37d-54bc-954f-d32dcda53079.html

roo_ster
roo_ster

Should not have settled.  Oh, and this was not an "outing" as the district did not go public.  (The nitwit who sued the district did.)  They told her parents, who have every right to know.  The school has a duty to inform parents of any data regarding their minor children's behavior that may have deleterious effect on their health, prospects, etc.  This is about as controversial as telling a student's parents if they find the child is using alcohol, drugs, or any other such harmful behavior.

wcvemail
wcvemail

She must not have been batting her own weight, or too many errors. Otherwise, the snickers would have been abated until at least the end of the season.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I thought it was a prerequisite for the team.

wcvemail
wcvemail

Although it's not a legal distinction, I wonder how the news was communicated to the parents. I've got a feeling that it wasn't in a thoughtful, well-planned, intimate conversation. Rather, I'll bet that it was an alarmist, out-of-the-blue declaration salted with some homophobia and some aspersions on the parenting.

And why didn't the parents know or suspect already? Why didn't they just tell the school to MYOB, and how's the kid doing?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Kind of ironical that schools, which think talking about homosexuality in a classroom will turn everybody into Charles Nelson Reilly and Rip Taylor's love child, have no problem talking to parents about their kids' sexuality, real or perceived.


dingo
dingo

@ruddski  

Another scenario:If the minor was being seriously bullied for being a lesbian then the school would be morally obliged to let the parents know the complete situation.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@roo_ster @dsmallwood06

What dsmallwood06 said, you dicck.

fredgarvinmp713
fredgarvinmp713

I remember the day my coaches sat down my parents and dropped the news that I was straight. They had to do it to keep me safe; at the rate I was going with the back issues of Nat Geo and whatnot (thank you women of Borneo!) I was looking at total blindness by age 20. A bad scene.

dsmallwood06
dsmallwood06

Since when is being a lesbian harmful behavior? You don't know the nature of this girls relationship with her parents. Maybe she was scared to tell them or just not ready.. Either way it was not the schools place to say anything.

dsmallwood06
dsmallwood06

Since when is being lesbian harmful behavior? You have no idea what relationship this girl had with her parents and could have been scared to tell them, or just not ready. Either way, it was NOT their place to tell her

fredgarvinmp713
fredgarvinmp713

You can't fault the parents for this. They put their daughter in the most lesbian-friendly environment available. It was either that or a summer job at Home Depot.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Sharon_Moreanus  Oooh, I didn't think of that obvious one, ready like a soft pitch for the hitting. Glad somebody covered it.

Speaking of which, that might be the only reason for parental intervention, if the kid was using soft pitches to hit on her classmates unwantedly.

dingo
dingo

@wcvemail  

And you expressing the school district's probable crassness based solely on your feeling isn't alarmist?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Montemalone  

What about the sex education part?  After all, the state's position is that all they need to be taught is abstinence.  Although, if this young lady is indeed a lesbian, why don't they promote this as a way of preventing teen pregnancy?

wcvemail
wcvemail

@TheCredibleHulk @Anonamouse  Here's one from the past: 

Martina Navratilova said to Renee Richards, "Renee, I'll be frank with you..." 

Renee replied, "No, tonight let ME be Frank."

If you chuckle, you're old.

ruddski
ruddski

@dingo

I dunno, tough call. Could they just refer to bullying, then let the victim explain? Or maybe just provide the evidence which would speak for itself?

I know that when I was in school, whatever the school knew, my folks knew. But that was all about breaking rules, grades, partying, bank robbery, etc.

Complicated world, but I still think the school was out of line - though possibly not legally.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@leftocenter  

Get over yourself, you poofter.  

Her parents are paying the cost to be the boss.  When she is out on her own, paying her own way, she can keep all sorts of smelly little secrets to herself.  Until then, her business is their business.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @roo_ster 

Well, all except the gay male students.  Too many problems with limp wristing the semi-autos(1).

Do you have some odd flavor of tourette's syndrome where you involuntarily sound off with the most inane, off-topic, and nonsensical baloney you manage to drag from your fourth point of contact?

.

.

.

.

(1) Just a joke to get craycray cat lady's goat.  Self defense is a human right, period, and gay folk ought to be able to defend themselves from harm same as anyone else.

ruddski
ruddski

@fredgarvinmp

You don't think shaving your palms every other day might have tipped them off?

Crap, monte beat me to it, no pun intended

roo_ster
roo_ster

@dsmallwood06  

I would give the same answer if it was a skeevy hetero relationship: tell the parents.  

Just because she plays for the other team doesn't make her special and suspend all common sense requirements. "Oh, she's GAY!  Well, in that case screw her parents, even if they have paid her way thus far in life."

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@dsmallwood06 if you took the time to read about this case, rather than trolling, you would find out that the coaches were reporting the relationship to the parents based on discussion among her teammates that the partner was involved with illegal drugs and underage drinking. it was this aspect of the relationship, and not the fact that it was a female, that prompted the notification of the parents. unfortunately, there is no way to factually report what the coach heard without implicating the student as being in a lesbian relationship. I don't know whether it has ever been confirmed that drugs or alcohol were a real concern or gossip among teammates. but if you're the coach, you can bet you report it either way. because the risk to a teacher or coach for failing to report is way too high.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@dingo @wcvemail  No, not alarmist, thanks for asking instead of stating, but conjectural in the idle bar bet style of thought. That, and Longview. Oh, and "softball coach."

ruddski
ruddski

Your Jewish mother act is wearing thin. Don't you have some clumping litter to tend to?

leftocenter
leftocenter

Gross and gross!  You, that is.  Had to look up poofter lol.  Wow...let your bigotry shine, and I think you have to be male for that? 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Tipster1908 @dsmallwood06

the ISD response to the lawsuit made no mention of any drug or alcohol rumor or use, the response only mentioned the age of the girlfriend as reason for the talk with the mother.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Tipster1908 @wcvemail @dsmallwood06  Thank you for pointing out that link, with the quote that you accurately describe ("potentially..."). That's weak tea, but in fact, that story also says that the mom "inferred" that the coaches were saying the daughter is gay, that the coaches never actually uttered the 'L' word. That's interesting, and smacks to me of "gonna get you authority figures in the news and get paid!" rather than home-wrecking trauma. Considering that the money goes to the girl, apparently, there was good coaching at home (heh).

Summary: you spoke the truth and phrased it well, Tipster, and the DO has indeed changed emphasis on this story for titillation and likely audience appeal among the base.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@wcvemail @Tipster1908@dsmallwood06 the link in the first sentence to a previous UP blog post. If you look on the second page of that posting, there is a block quote from one of the judges in the case. it mentions that the coaches allege the relationship potentially involved drugs and/or alcohol. again, I don't know whether that has proven to be a fact, but it certainly makes this case a lot more than "small town in Texas hates gay people so it outs student to her parents"

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Tipster1908 @dsmallwood06  I'll take the time to read about it. Can you provide a readable link? There's one elsewhere on this page from the Kilgore paper, which I took the time to read. That doesn't report anything about drugs and underage drinking. If you cannot provide any such link, then I call bullshit and I call after-the-fact, small-town-justification-supposition. 

les.moor
les.moor

@wcvemail Inferred, as in when the school people said "ghey" rather than "gay".

wcvemail
wcvemail

@dingo @wcvemail  
Good point. Educators may well have been small-town rednecks, but upon reading further, it seems their worst sin in this case was possible clumsiness. Bear in mind that the mom merely "inferred" that the educators were calling her daughter a lesbian. And the "outing" was by the family when they brought suit. Finally, those out-of-town, friend-of-court attorneys who vowed to "change the way Kilgore does business" were almost surely called by the mom.


Yeah, if I'm a Longview educator making, what, $50K/yr, I'm gonna fold my hand and settle, too. 

dingo
dingo

@wcvemail  

I tend to give educators the benefit of the doubt. Given that they don't get paid much and if the default were otherwise then they would be forced to take crap from every parent who crosses paths with them.

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