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Teacher hits Nebo with suit over civil rights

A Spanish Fork High School teacher who was told not to discuss her lesbian orientation or lifestyle has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Nebo School District.

Wendy Weaver, the school's championship volleyball coach and a teacher since 1979, said the ban violates her constitutional rights of free expression and due process.Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, the suit contends that Weaver was warned at a meeting and in writing this summer "not to make comments, announcements or statements to students, staff members or parents of students regarding your homosexual orientation or lifestyle."

Weaver, who also teaches psychology and physical education, took the legal action with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU and the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network were scheduled to announce the suit later Tuesday.

According to the suit, Weaver and her husband, Gary Weaver, also a Nebo School District employee, were divorced in April after 15 years of marriage. Since the divorce, Wendy Weaver has been living with Rachael Smith in a "committed, loving and marital-like relationship" the suit states.

In July, principal Robert Wadley told her she would not be coaching the volleyball team during the 1997-98 school year. When she asked why, Wadley allegedly said the "perception of (Weaver) had changed." But he declined to elaborate, the suit said.

The next day, in a meeting with district officials, Weaver was given a memorandum spelling out the prohibition against discussing her lesbian lifestyle.

"A violation of these requirements may jeopardize your job and be cause for termination," the suit said.

Weaver says in the suit that she has never initiated any conversation with any student regarding her sexual orientation and that she has "no desire to initiate any such conversation with students."

The suit said Weaver's sexual orientation did not come to the attention of school officials because of anything she said or did but rather from Gary Weaver.

Weaver's lawyers say the restrictions imposed by the district are "impermissibly vague" and "overbroad" because they would prohibit a "substantial number of communications, particularly communications between Weaver and other adults."

Also, the suit contends Weaver's removal from the volleyball team and threats of dismissal as a teacher are punishment. The conduct of the school officials deprives Weaver of her right of freedom of expression protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the suit said.

The suit also said the officials invaded her rights of privacy and intruded upon her private life.

Named as defendants were the Nebo School District, Superintendent Denis Poulsen, Wadley, human resources director Almon Mosher and secondary education director Larry Kimball.

Asked for a response to the lawsuit, Nebo School District spokeswoman Frances Larsen said, "We do not discuss personnel issues in a public forum."