Suit filed against Texas school district over school officials revealing student’s sexual orientation to mother

A mother has filed suit in federal court against Kilgore Independent School District (KISD) on behalf of her daughter claiming invasion of privacy, says Courthouse News Service. The suit claims high school coaches invaded the student’s privacy by aggressively confronting the girl about her sexual orientation, and that the school district covered for them with the bogus excuse that the school was “legally obligated to share this information with the parent.” In addition to KISD, the suit names the head softball coach, the assistant softball coach, and the assistant athletic director.

The complaint alleges that the two softball coaches called a meeting, dismissed everyone but her, then interrogated her in the locked locker room.  The coaches asked S.W. if she was gay, accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl, claimed that S.W. was spreading gossip about this other girl being one of the coaches’ “girlfriend.” When S.W. denied these accusations, the coaches reacted angrily.  In addition, the complaint claims that the coaches removed S.W. from the softball team, then lied to the team by saying that she quit.  The coaches’ “violation of S.W.’s privacy and the surrounding controversy has caused S.W. severe emotional and mental anguish,” it asserts.

The complaint further alleges that when the mother told the school superintendent what happened, the superintendent failed to investigate, to discipline the coaches, and (until five months later) to inform the mother of the possibility of filing a formal complaint.  After a hearing addressing her formal complaints, the Kilgore ISD justified the coaches’ nonconsensual disclosure of SW’s sexual orientation by stating that they were “legally obligated to share this information with the parent. ” The complaint accuses the school of failing to train its staff “concerning their legal obligations in dealing with personal student information of a highly sensitive nature.”

She seeks punitive damages for violation of state and federal rights of privacy and 4th Amendment violations due to the confrontation in the locker room, which she claims to have been a “de facto seizure of SW’s person and an unreasonable restraint on SW’s liberty to leave this hostile environment.”

Source: Courthouse News Service, 12/22/10, By Cameron Langford

[Editor's Note: The mother seeks various declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees.  The legal complaint is available at the first link below.

In 2007, a federal district court in California ruled that a school official who revealed a student's sexual orientation to her mother had not violated the student's federal or state constitutional right of privacy. While the court acknowledged that the student had a reasonable expectation of privacy about her sexual orientation under both U.S. and California constitutions, that right was subject to balancing with the state’s interest in disclosure. In this case, the disclosure occurred in the context of a principal’s legal duty under the California Education Code to inform parents of the disciplinary measures being taken against their child. Because the principal had a legitimate governmental purpose in describing the context of the suspension, he did not violate the student’s rights to privacy. A summary of the opinion is available at the second link below.]

Legal complaint

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