Judge Orders Disclosure About Policy Involving Homosexual Coaches

Jan 4, 2008

A federal judge has reconsidered his previous decision and ordered that communications involving a former Penn State University basketball coach, her former player and a PSU athletic department official be turned over to a plaintiff in an unrelated case since it may shed light on how the school treats homosexuals.
The plaintiff in the case, Constance Mathews, is a former faculty member, who is suing the school for discriminating against her based on her sexual orientation.
Mathews, through her attorney Wyomissing-based lawyer Jana R. Barnett, was seeking details about how Penn State has addressed student and employee statements that disparage homosexuals as well as the extent to which the university has known about any such statements.
The intersection with athletics involves former Penn State basketball coach Rene Portland and AD Tim Curley, who were sued by former basketball player Jennifer Harris, who claimed that Portland thought she was a lesbian and discriminated against her because of her orientation..
Portland fought the claim. The case settled in early 2007.
In her bid to secure the communication between the parties and the school, Barnett argued successfully that information held by Curley, Harris and Portland could help describe the overall climate at the university.
Attorney John A. Snyder, had countered that “there has been no evidence or offer of proof from (Matthews) which would support the bald accusation that there were long-standing incidents of sexual orientation discrimination by Coach Portland, which were known to, and ignored by Penn State.”
On reconsideration, the federal judge agreed, finding that evidence involving the university athletic department may be relevant to Matthews’ claim of “a policy or custom of discrimination.”


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