Adults Can Be Anti-Gay Bullies Too, Just Ask This Lesbian High School Student

If you thought that high school teens killing themselves because bullying w/r/t their sexual orientation had pushed them to their limits was the absolute worst thing, you would probably be right. But second place might go to homophobic bullying and outing by SCHOOL OFFICIALS, especially those trusted and beloved by the student in question. Enter Kilgore School District, and softball coaches Newell and Fletcher.

There’s a lot of unknown details, but what is known is this:

On March 2 of last year, according to the lawsuit, S.W. showed up at the softball field for a team meeting, and after it was over, Newell and another coach told the girls to go home. S.W. was told to stay… The lawsuit says Rhonda Fletcher, the other coach named as a defendant… asked S.W. if she was gay, accused her of having a sexual relationship with another girl. She also claimed that S.W. was spreading gossip about this other girl being “Coach Newell’s girlfriend…” Fletcher and Newell then threatened S.W. that they were going to tell her mother that she was gay and having a sexual relationship with another girl. They warned S.W. that she could not play in the softball game that night until they told her mother this information. Finally, they allowed S.W. to leave the locker room.

Thankfully, S.W.’s mother has pursued action against the school rather than disowning her daughter or sending her to a dangerous Love In Action style reprogamming camp, both of which were COMPLETELY POSSIBLE outcomes of this situation. It also doesn’t seem like she threatened or harassed S.W.’s girlfriend, which is pretty lucky considering that the coaches also offered up her CONTACT INFORMATION.

Instead, the mother spoke with the school district about what had happened, filing complaints with the principal, superintendent and board of trustees.  And when Kilgore  superintendent Jody Clements maintained that “We’re confident we handled it the right way,” she got in contact with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Many of the details of the story aren’t being released, which is completely appropriate, as the injured party is a high school student. A lot of the details we do have don’t seem to make sense – for instance, the contact information of S.W.’s girlfriend was offered straight out of Coach Newell’s personal cell phone, and S.W. and her mother believe that the motivation for her outing was that Newell was somehow also romantically involved with the girl in question. If true, that abuse of the coach-student power dynamic would be yet another layer of extreme inappropriateness; but there’s no way to tell yet if that’s the case.

What is true is that S.W. was eventually kicked off the softball team, and her grades have since plummeted. Also true is that this is inexcusably and reprehensibly wrong on every level. Or, as the lawsuit says,  “the coaches have “no legitimate state interest in the disclosure of students’ sexual orientation to parents. Doing so is a severe and traumatic violation of students’ privacy…”

If there’s one minor silver lining to Gay Bullying Crisis 2010, it’s that it has led to an increased push for schools to be held accountable for the safety of their students. Tyler Clementi’s parents are suing Rutgers University for the fact that although Clementi alerted an RA to the fact that his roommate was spying on and recording him, nothing was done to help him. Hopefully, the knowledge that parents are empowered to try to keep their kids safe in school will motivate some schools to do the same – or at least, in the case of Kilgore, not have their own staff actively endanger and threaten the students themselves. Here’s to hoping.


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Rachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. As far as the coach having the “girlfriend’s” number in her cell phone — this is not uncommon at all. Many coaches have their players’ numbers; also, coaches are not necessarily teachers, so that makes the phone number sitch a tad less unusual/uncomfortable.

    WIth that said, I know of a coach/player lesbian relationship that took place at a high school and went on for, like, two years before anyone found out. It didn’t end well. Obviously.

  2. Yeah, my coach’s definitely had my contact info in the same way my employer has my contact info…

    But since the coach also threatened S.W. with spreading rumors about coach and other girl being in a relationship…WELL.

  3. While it’s not uncommon for coaches to have player’s cell phone numbers, this article does not state whether this other female was, in fact, on the same team. She is only identified as “another girl” or “the other girl”. While it could be inferred that she was on the team from other information in the article, it is not stated explicitly.

    Regardless, this is gross abuse of power and is absolutely horrifying.

  4. After reading this, I am now confident that all female softball coaches are evil, vindictive human beings. My coaches would totally do the same thing, even though they are lesbians, and together. The number of horror stories that I’ve heard about my coaches and other people’s is absolutely ridiculous. Softball, man. More intense and secretive than Fight Club.

  5. I get more shit for doing Day of Silence from teachers than I do for students. They ask me questions like “how is silence furthering your ’cause?'”, knowing fare well that I won’t be able to defend myself.

  6. Actually, my evil assistant principal in high school outed me to my father. She didn’t really know exactly. She took my phone because I was texting in class and went through it. When my father came to pick me up she told him I had been texting someone named Tramaine, prompting him to see the “I love you.” Text. He had met Tramaine, so he already knew who she was, but since her name is ambiguous, the AP probably thought it was a boy. That being said, she didn’t have the right to go through my phone at all, regardless. And I still owe her a punch in the face for it.

  7. I am not a violent person. I say this to ameliorate opinions of me when I admit the extreme desire to get in that coach’s face.

    I work with teenagers. It’s a developmental asset to have adults (not related to you) that you can trust, who believe in you, who take an interest and support you in your teenage years. (#3 on the list, folks)

    http://www.search-institute.org/content/40-developmental-assets-adolescents-ages-12-18

    F*cking bully.

  8. Wtf? I wonder if Newell and Fletcher regret their actions. Not because of the negative media attention surrounding them but because they made a huge fucking mistake. And sometimes people make huge fucking mistakes. Probably not but I’m curious so could someone ask them for me? Thanks.

  9. I wasn’t bullied by adults for being gay. Although my church did perform an exorcism on me to free me from my gay demon. And then I was put in mandatory gender reassignment therapy. (which kind of worked. I went from baby-butch to ultra-femme) But given the other shit they put me through, like the corrective gang rape and cover up when my pharmacist (who was a member of the church) told others that I was promiscuous because I was on birth control, I consider myself pretty lucky. Imagine what they might have done if I’d been busted buying dental dams.

    • So…um, thank goodness they didn’t bully you.

      They only betrayed your trust, abused their power and responsibility over a minor, either participated in or covered up rape and sexual assault and then commited libel against you, probably causing you to feel shame where none was deserved 9emotional abuse).

      There’s another term that describes what they did, hon. I think it’s “child abuse and sexual assault.” This is, of course, in my non-legal opinion as a teen advocate.

      I’m glad you got away from those people (please please please say you did) and have a chance to live a safe and healthy life.

      How is this not actionable? I’m very seriously considering becoming a youth advocate with my county court in order to be there for lgbt teens, especially lgbt teens. Something’s got to give.

      I have very strong feelings on this, Liana. *shakes fist*

    • Not only that, but your pharmacist with HIPAA laws much for even stating anything about your medical records could have his license revoked. I hope you report it to the DA. I’m absolutely serious.

    • My god. I’m so sorry that all of that happened to you. I can’t even imagine going through that, and having the strength to survive it. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! It’s so important for people to realize the consequences that outing a minor could possibly have for them. A friend of mine yesterday said that the school officials in this case were completely justified, because the parents have more rights than the students, I’m still utterly horrified by his reaction.

      I hope that you’ve been able to get all of those horrible people completely out of your life (and ideally to report them for their crimes!).

  10. As a coach I find this kind of situation so frightening. I coach both highschool and university students in Canada, and I’ve seen coaches abuse their power to advance their own careers, but I’ve never seen anything like this. My feelings are that as a coach, you should be invested in the well being of your athletes and in helping them to perform at their best. Bullying them just goes so completly against that, and I just can’t uderstand what motivates a coach to do something like that.How adults in positions of power are able to act in such immature and hurtful ways toward their athletes is impossible for me to understand.
    Competitive sports teams seem like they can be very homophopic. I am not out yet at my club, but the first people I came out to were my former teammates and they were absolutely amazing about it, but I don’t know how the rest of the club and my coaches would react. Word travels quickly in sports organizations and it makes for an unfriendly environment, no coach should add to that.

  11. Omg,I feel so good that the story kind of has good end. But anyway, I don’t think someone should out you like that,it’s so wrong..
    I am a former volleyball player and I came out to my teammates while ago. One of them was so freaked out that I even had to convince her that I’m not contagious. She looked as if she was going to barf right away. I told her it wasn’t illness or anything like that.Afterwards she was like ‘well,if you’re not sick,then whats wrong with you’
    So I quit because at some point in the future I would have broken her face or limb and leave her cripple for the rest of her miserable life. And my coach loved me so much because she didn’t care who I was dating as long as I was playing well. So people,deal with homophobia.

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