District blasts 'bullying' from lawyers
Kilgore ISD will not add to, remove or change any existing policies in response to the Wyatt vs. Kilgore ISD lawsuit brought to the district in December 2010, but there will now be additional training for KISD employees.
“The Plaintiff ’s counsel in this case attempted to bully the Board into changing its policies by threatening long, expensive and protracted litigation,” Friday’s press release stated. “The KISD Board refused.”
The lawsuit stems from a 2009 incident in which two KISD coaches took Skye Wyatt, then 16 years old, into a locker room and questioned her about a relationship she was reportedly having with a then-18-year-old woman.
Coaches Cassandra Newell and Rhonda Fletcher continued to tell Wyatt’s mother, Barbara, about the relationship, “outing” Wyatt as a lesbian.
KISD’s attorney Robert Davis of Flowers Davis, P.L.L.C. expanded that Wyatt, now 21, was going with the 18-yearold during school hours when she was supposed to be at softball practice. Both Wyatt and the woman have admitted to the relationship, he said.
“It was during school hours and she lied to the coaches about who was picking her up and then she drove past the coaches and her mother in the car with this lady,” Davis said.
The first of two special meetings in 2014 was called Feb. 7 for the district to discuss the case with Davis. The second took place Feb. 14, and both times the district chose to take no action on the settlement presented. Both meetings were called back into session to adjourn without any open discussion.
The original settlement offered Feb. 7 asked for the district to add policy concerning discrimination based on sexual preference or orientation, Texas Administrative Code of Ethics and training based on the two.
The negotiated settlement, which was signed Thursday, does not require the district to change any policies. The settlement also calls for the code of ethics to be included in the student-parent handbook in addition to the employee handbook. With the new settlement all district employees will participate in a 30-minute training on litigation.
KISD’s insurance carrier has agreed to pay $77,500 as part of the lawsuit, more than the original $75,000.
Davis explained that the amount was determined by the carrier based on what it thought would be about one-third the total amount it would cost the district if the case was taken to the Supreme Court. The carrier believed it could save $77,500 if it settled the case.
One of Wyatt’s pro bono attorneys
Paula Hinton of Winston & Strawn said she anticipated the monetary settlement would be paid early next week.
Hinton said she and Wyatt’s other attorneys still “strongly believe that something wrong was done here.”
KISD’s press release states: “The KISD Board believes that the actions of its employees were in all things lawful. The KISD Board believes that the pre-existing policies of the District were much more than adequate and the Board Policies in existence at the time will continue to remain in full force and effect.”
In late December 2010 after the lawsuit was filed, Hinton said the Texas Administrative Code of Ethics changed “on a statewide basis” to include that discrimination could not happen based on sexual preference or orientation.
The district had adopted the code of ethics and in the agreement confirmed its continuation of the code and current policies.
“KISD will continue to maintain its professional ethical policy that states: ‘The Educator shall not exclude a student from participation in a program, deny benefits to a student, or grant an advantage to a student on the basis of race, color, gender, disability, national origin, religion, family statues, or sexual orientation,’” the settlement agreement states.
“The plaintiffs acknowledged that those were all essentially the policies that they had been requesting since the inception of the suit,” Davis said.
Davis and Texas Civil Rights Project Legal Director Wayne Krause Yang will provide the 30-minute training at no cost to the district, Davis said. He continued that the training would be on general litigation, not necessarily from this particular case.
“This is a training that none of KISD employees have ever received before, and it will be instrumental in preventing privacy violations and discrimination by sexual orientation from happening ever again,” Yang said.
The training will be done live, but it will also be available online, which Wyatt’s other pro bono attorney Jennifer Haltom Doan of Haltom & Doan said she liked.
The settlement means there will no longer be a March 3 court date.
“We are happy that the school superintendent acknowledged that her entire employee base needed to be better educated and put in place the system to be able to do that,” Doan said Friday.
“We’re moving on and looking to the future,” Cara Cooke said. She declined to elaborate on the press release.