(Atlanta, Georgia December 19, 2011)— On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling against Jennifer Keeton, a graduate student in counseling at Augusta State University. Ms. Keeton expressed intent to engage in discriminatory and harmful professional practices when working with LGBT students as a school counselor. Keeton claimed her first amendment rights were violated when the school required her to complete a remediation program to better understand LGBT issues.
In the Court’s opinion, Judge Rosemary Barkett writes, "Keeton does not have a constitutional right to disregard the limits ASU has established for its clinical practicum and set her own standards for counseling clients in the clinical practicum."
Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Georgia Safe Schools Coalition (GSCC) in opposition to a Keeton’s legal claim against Augusta State University. Keeton is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund.
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta made the following statement:
"We are grateful to the Court for recognizing how potentially dangerous it would be for a counselor to allow her personal beliefs to get in the way of her ethical obligation to promote the well-being of all students, including LGTBQ youth.
"Augusta State University had legitimate concerns to require Ms. Keeton to complete a remediation program after expressing her desire to subject LGBTQ youth to dangerous conversion therapy. If a counselor cannot respect the dignity and promote the welfare of her LGBTQ clients and uphold the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, she is not a competent counselor.
"While we are all free to hold our personal beliefs, a counselor must practice according to professional ethics that require her not to impose her beliefs on her clients. When Georgia’s LGBTQ youth are being bullied or thinking about committing suicide, we want them to be speaking with trained counselors who will help not harm them."
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office is handling the case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Beth Littrell, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney.