Last edited: January 25, 2005

Back to School

Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2003
P. O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
Fax: 801-257-8950

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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