A former goalkeeper for the Westminster College women's soccer team is suing the school and head coach Tony LeBlanc alleging she was subjected to "wildly inappropriate sexual harassment" as part of a hazing ritual when she was a freshman, and then was retaliated against for reporting it.

The Title IX claim was filed in federal court on Tuesday. Westminster College issued a short prepared statement in response.

"Westminster College takes sexual harassment complaints seriously. The college maintains the privacy of any student's complaints and/or investigations and will respect the legal process."

In 2021, freshman goalkeeper Naomi Kehl, who was on scholarship to play for the Westminster soccer team, was forced to participate in an initiation for new players known as the "hot seat," the lawsuit states.

"Specifically, while traveling on the team bus, upper class players require freshmen and transfer players to come to the front of the bus, one at a time, and to sit in what is characterized as the 'hot seat,'" according to the lawsuit. "A spotlight is then shone on the player, and the player is required to answer sexually inappropriate and personally invasive questions posed by upper classmen into a microphone that broadcasts the player's answers throughout the team bus."

All of this happened while LeBlanc was sitting in a seat across from the player, the complaint says.

According to the lawsuit, Kehl felt "trapped, was extraordinarily uncomfortable and distraught" and "became sick to her stomach as she anticipated being pressured to respond to questions no one should be compelled to answer publicly, particularly a young girl, and particularly in front of her male coach."

The lawsuit contends that LeBlanc encouraged and participated in the hot seat initiation ritual despite having opportunities to stop it.

In September 2021, Kehl's father contacted the college's Title IX office to file a sexual harassment complaint.

After speaking with cabinet members of Westminster's president, Ed Kehl was told if the school handled the complaint that LeBlanc "would probably only get 'a slap on the wrist,'" the lawsuit alleges.

Because of that, Ed Kehl said he would rather file a formal Title IX complaint.

"Unbeknownst to Mr. Kehl or Naomi herself, however, the college declined to handle the sexual harassment complaint as a Title IX complaint and instead chose to handle it as an internal personnel matter," according to the lawsuit.

LeBlanc received a suspension that amounted to one game, the lawsuit says.

"Upon information and belief, when asked during a coaches meeting for comment about Mr. Kehl's reporting of the sexual harassment and abuse, coach LeBlanc commented that it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard, and 'it is so stupid,'" according to the lawsuit.

It also contends that after the sexual harassment complaint was submitted, LeBlanc was "sufficiently bothered" by it and "he then acted in retaliation against Naomi. ... Naomi did not play a single minute for the next four matches after coach LeBlanc returned."

In October 2021, Ed Kehl filed a second complaint to the college's Title IX office alleging retaliation.

"Interestingly, after the filing of the retaliation complaint, coach LeBlanc then resumed giving Naomi playing time after benching her for four consecutive games," the lawsuit states.

Naomi Kehl and her father declined to pursue the retaliation complaint after realizing Westminster was "taking an aggressive defensive legal posture in response," the lawsuit contends.

The federal lawsuit filed this week claims both the alleged prior Title IX violations of sex-based discrimination and retaliation, and additionally accuses Westminster of showing deliberate indifference, and both the school and LeBlanc of gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"The United States is undergoing an epidemic of sexual harassment and abuse of student and professional athletes by people charged with their care, coaching and responsibility. Given the fear, shame, confusion and vulnerability victims of sexual harassment and abuse experience, and the threat of retaliation if they report the misconduct, the violations remain largely hidden while the perpetrators continue their abuse, and the number of victims increases," Kehl's attorneys state in the lawsuit.

"Victims of sexual harassment and abuse often suffer extreme mental, emotional and psychological harm, which negatively affects their lives, scholarship and athletic performance. Utah student athletes are not immune to sexual abuse and harassment suffered at the hands of those charged with their care, coaching, supervision and responsibility, and this matter arises from just such conduct."