Skye Wyatt, now 21, was outed to her mother by two softball coaches at her school in Kilgore, Texas six years ago. Her mother, Barbara Wyatt, sued the school for violating her daughter’s privacy. On Monday the school settled for $77 000 US dollars.
In 2009, Skye Wyatt was 16 and had not yet told her mother that she was a lesbian and had a girlfriend. The two softball coaches allegedly cornered her in her high school locker room, bullied her into admitting she was gay and then told her if she didn’t come out to her mother she wouldn’t be allowed to participate in that day’s game. When she refused, the coaches called her mother and asked her to come to the field where they told her themselves.
Following the incident, Skye Wyatt suffered harassment from her classmates as a result of her outing and reportedly began cutting herself and contemplating suicide. In 2010 Barbara Wyatt filed a complaint with the school, which held three levels of hearings. By that stage, Texas state law had changed to include policies concerning privacy and communication between educators and students, and the Kilgore school district had instituted a policy against LGBT discrimination. Maintaining the policy and keeping school staff educated about implementing it is part of the agreement.
Jenny Betz, education manager for the national Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) commented on the outcome of the case.
“I think it’s an incredible decision, particularly because it shows that a student had the courage to stand up for what she thought was right.
“The only reason it’s ever OK to disclose to anyone a student’s sexual orientation is if you have that student’s permission to do so. [Otherwise] it’s never OK.” She noted that such disclosure is risky because it’s impossible to know how a parent or guardian will react, and the news could result in a student being abused, bullied or kicked our of their home. “So it’s not only a disrespectful act, but it can be a dangerous one, too,” she says.