Back to School
Lake Tribune, April 14, 2003
P. O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
Despite another sharp rebuke in his crusade against
Spanish Fork High School psychology teacher Wendy Chandler—this time from
the Utah Supreme Court—the attorney representing the “Citizens of Nebo
School District for Moral and Legal Values” is undaunted.
Utah’s top court on April 4 deflected Matthew
Hilton’s arguments that Chandler is unfit to teach because she is a lesbian
and, presumably, violating the state’s sodomy laws.
Rather than remove Chandler, who changed her name from
Weaver, the justices rightly rejected Hilton’s overreaching claim that
aggrieved parents and students can initiate civil suits against teachers to
force them out when school administrators won’t.
“This court does not have the authority to fire Weaver
or order the school board to do so, nor may we force the State Board of
Education to take any action at this point,” the justices wrote.
Further, Hilton and his clients, “cannot avoid the
mandatory disciplinary procedures of the State Board of Education.”
The justices noted that state lawmakers established the
Professional Practices Advisory Commission to hear complaints of “immoral,
unprofessional, or incompetent conduct, unfitness for duty, or other
violations of standards of ethical conduct, performance, and professional
competence” such as Hilton’s.
In essence, they ordered Hilton to take his case back to
the State Office of Education, which had put the attorney’s complaints on
hold pending a resolution of the court case.
It’s the latest, most resounding defeat in Hilton’s
multi-faceted campaign to force Chandler out.
The ugly saga dates back more than six years, when
frightened parents learned that Chandler, then the high school’s married
volleyball coach, had confided her sexual orientation to a student.
Nebo School District board members stripped her of her
coaching job and gagged her, ordering her not to discuss her sexual
orientation with students. Chandler successfully challenged the strictures in
federal court. U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ordered the district to offer
Chandler her coaching job back—she declined—lifted the gag order and told
the school district to pay her legal bills.
Meantime, Hilton and other irate parents sued. In 1999,
4th District Judge Ray Harding Jr. dismissed the suit. The Supreme Court
decision upholds Harding’s ruling. With no other alternative, a determined
Hilton now plans to push his case again with school administrators. He’s
back where he started, and, as the justices pointed out, where he should be.
Once the case returns to its proper jurisdiction, we can
only hope that it will be resolved once and for all, with a firm ruling that
Chandler should keep her job, and the voyeurs who insist on poking about in
other people’s private lives will find something better to do.
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