An attorney has warned a citizens group to drop its lawsuit against a lesbian Spanish Fork High School teacher or face a slander suit.
But attorney Matthew Hilton, representing the Citizens of Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values, answered the threat with a second amended complaint outlining a new claim against psychology teacher Wendy Weaver."For reasons that can be argued until the cows come home, teachers have been held up as an example people can look up to," Hilton said Friday.
The new complaint, filed Friday, says Weaver, a former girls' volleyball coach, should not be certified to teach school or be in the locker room of the gym because of her sexual preference.
Last October, Weaver filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit claiming the Nebo School District violated her rights by imposing a gag order barring her from discussing her sexuality with anyone, in or out of school.
In December, Hilton filed suit on behalf of some Utah County residents and Spanish Fork High students claiming that Weaver is unfit to teach. The suit, filed in Provo's 4th District Court and amended in February, alleged that Weaver encouraged her female volleyball players to be physically affectionate with one another.
It seeks just $1 in damages, but asks a jury to decide whether Weaver violated the law by administering psychology tests and interpreting students' dreams in her advanced placement psychology class. Weaver also allegedly talked openly about her negative feelings toward The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But in his April 20 letter, Richard Van Wagoner, a cooperating attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents Weaver, said the lawsuit was filed "solely to harass, slander and embarrass" Weaver and to keep her from earning a living as a teacher.
Hilton insists the heart of the issue was Weaver's announcement that she is a lesbian after filing the federal lawsuit, which is pending.
Hilton said that by granting reporters interviews and talking openly about her "marriage-type" relationship with Rachel Smith, Weaver violated the moral standards of the community where she lives and teaches.
That, he said, violates the state's standards for teacher certification.
"These are extraordinarily difficult questions as a matter of law. But if a teacher comes out and says `I'm cohabitating' in light of Utah laws, which some say you can't enforce anyway, it's against the law," Hilton said.
Van Wagoner characterized the latest developments as "unfortunate, but not unexpected, that this group of extremists hasn't seen the wisdom of dismissing the lawsuit.
"We believe there are substantial claims for slander, not only against Mr. Hilton but some of the parties and people who signed affidavits."
Hilton's group says it has students who will corroborate the allegations outlined in its lawsuit. Several students have also come forward on Weaver's behalf and said the allegations against Weaver are untrue.