Florida Teacher Accused of Turning a Student Gay Takes Action
Juliet Hibbs, a teacher at Deerfield Beach High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL, is firing back after a parent claimed she turned a student into a lesbian.
A Sun-Sentinel story details the incident – the 18-year-old student, whose name has not been released, began to recieve increasingly aggressive messages about her sexual orientation from her stepfather via twitter. Hibbs, who saw the messages, reported the incident to authorities as child abuse and cyber-bullying. After the Twitter Incident, the student never returned home. The parents filled a report with the school district, saying they were angry Hibbs never informed them of their daughter’s lifestyle, and that the teacher contributed to her lesbianism.
A public school’s legal authority or responsibility to inform parents of a student’s sexual orientation or to disclose such information if asked is a very complicated issue of law and fact according to VA ACLU’s Executive Director Claire Gastañaga.
“Federal law gives a parent the right to access a student’s education records. If the student told a guidance counselor about their sexuality, the counselor could see himself or herself as ethically bound to protect the conversation as confidential, but if notes are recorded and shared with any other school official, federal law makes the record accessible as an education record if the student is under 18 or, in the case of students in college, considered financially dependent.”
In addition, any conversation detailing sexual activity between a student under 18 and someone over the age of 18 is may be subject to mandatory reporting requirements under state laws governing child abuse and neglect.
“It depends on the facts.” Said Gastañaga, “There is no line you can draw that could say any particular disclosure is legal or appropriate. It is not a black and white issue. We would encourage school officials and counselors to respect a student’s privacy as much as possible under all of the circumstances, and, particularly, where the student’s personal safety is not at issue.”
Hibbs has since filed charges with the Employment Opportunity Commission against the district, the principal and the assistant principal. The teacher of 10 years said the charges of her being involved with the students sexuality are ridiculous. Hibbs said she is straight, and a straight woman cannot make someone else gay.
Still on medical leave, Hibbs said the stress from the allegations has made it impossible for her to work. Additionally, she claims these charges would make it impossible for her to teach anywhere in the future – her work history and record is now ruined by these far-fetched claims.
Special thanks to Gastañaga at the VA ACLU for clarifying the complex nature of student disclosure.
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