Utah High Court Rules in Lesbian's Favor
[SALT LAKE CITY, UT] - The Utah Supreme Court ruled on Friday against a group of conservative parents who were trying to remove a lesbian psychology teacher from her job at Spanish Fork High School.
The case goes back to 1997, when Wendy Weaver acknowledged she was gay in response to a question from a student. Weaver, who now goes by her maiden name, Wendy Chandler, was ordered by school officials to make no mention of sexual orientation in the future, either on school grounds or in the larger community. She was also fired from her position as volleyball coach.
Chandler sued in federal court on First Amendment grounds, and won a victory against the Nebo School District. Judge Bruce Jenkins lifted the gag order, and told the district to reinstate Chandler as a coach, and to pay her legal fees of about $62,000. Chandler declined the coaching job, but continues to teach psychology.
But even after winning in Jenkins' courtroom, Chandler still faced a parallel suit, filed by a parent group calling itself "Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values." The group first lodged a complaint against Chandler with the State Office of Education, and later sued when the office took no action. The Citizens alleged that Chandler's sexual orientation was immoral and in violation of state sodomy laws. Also, the group accused the teacher of disparaging the Mormon Church, administering a psychological test without a license and other putative missteps.
In 1999, a state court judge dismissed all but two counts, and the Citizens dropped the remaining charges in order to file an appeal. In Friday's ruling, the high court confirmed that teacher discipline rests with the various school administrative agencies, and is not subject to civil suits by disgruntled parents.
Chandler's travails are not completely over, however. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the parents now plan to file yet another complaint with the State Board of Education. The new complaint will be reviewed by the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission, and the commission will decide whether to investigate.
Chandler, however, is not worried, while ACLU cooperating attorney Stephen Clark told the Tribune that he hopes to convince the Citizens "that this crusade should end here."