By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com February 24 2014 7:19 PM ET
A Texas school district has agreed to pay $77,500 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a lesbian former student who said her high school softball coaches outed her to her mother.
Officials with the Kilgore Independent School District agreed Friday to pay the sum to Skye Wyatt, now 21, who said the outing occurred five years ago, when she was a junior in high school, reports the Longview News-Journal. As part of the settlement, school administrators agreed to conduct an annual training session for employees on privacy and discrimination, and to publish an antidiscrimination policy in the district’s employee and student-parent handbooks and on its website.
“The great thing that Skye did in bringing this lawsuit was that it was not just for her, it was for others,” Jennifer Doan, Wyatt’s attorney, told the News-Journal.
According to the lawsuit, on March 2, 2009, two softball coaches confronted Wyatt, then 16, in a locker room and said they believed she was a lesbian and was in a relationship with another girl. Wyatt denied this at the time, although she and the other girl were indeed dating. The coaches responded to her denial by threatening to sue her for slander and saying they would call in her mother and tell her about the relationship. Skye’s mother, Barbara Wyatt, arrived within about 40 minutes, and the coaches told her Skye was a lesbian. In her lawsuit, Skye Wyatt said the coaches’ actions violated her right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution, the Texas constitution, and Texas common law.
Kilgore administrators said the settlement was a business decision on the part of the school district’s insurance carrier, and they issued a statement saying they believed the coaches did nothing wrong. “The Kilgore ISD board believes that the actions of its employees were in all things lawful,” the statement reads in part, adding, “The settlement is much less expensive than what the insurance carrier would spend in this case in attorney fees and costs through trial, appeal by the plaintiff to the Fifth Circuit and appeal by the plaintiff to the United States Supreme Court.” The statement also said no policies would change as a result of the suit.
However, agreeing to the training and publicizing the nondiscrimination policy do amount to a positive change for the district, Doan told the News-Journal. “The agreement puts into place important protections for students and their privacy rights, and the school district’s official policy will prohibit exclusion by sexual orientation,” she said.