Last edited: January 01, 2005

Judge Rules for Lesbian Teacher

The Associated Press, November 25, 1998

SALT LAKE CITY  -- A federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a high school teacher who claimed she was fired as volleyball coach because she is a lesbian.

Wendy Weaver said Spanish Fork High School officials violated her rights with a gag order that prevented her from talking with students or staff about her sexual orientation, even outside of school.

Judge Bruce Jenkins agreed that her rights of free speech, equal protection and due process were violated. He ordered the school district to offer Weaver the coaching position, lift the gag order and give her $1,500 in damages.

"Although the Constitution cannot control prejudices, neither this court nor any other court should, directly or indirectly, legitimize them," Jenkins wrote.

School lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

The Weaver case has attracted national attention because of the precedent it could set for how public schools treat homosexual teachers and coaches.

"It acknowledges that they can respond honestly about who they are ... without fear of constitutional restraints on their expressions," said Stephen Clark, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

Jenkins noted that Weaver was threatened with disciplinary action for discussing her intimate associations and sexual orientation, yet no other teacher faced the same restriction.

Weaver said she is not sure whether to apply next year for the coaching job but does not anticipate the ruling will affect her work as a psychology teacher.

[Home] [News] [Utah]