Keeton v. Anderson-Wiley

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Status: Closed
Court:
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Issues: Teens & Young Adults

Case in which a counseling student sues her school for requiring a remediation plan that included greater exposure to LGBT patients.

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While a graduate student in the counseling program at Augusta State University, Jennifer Keeton repeatedly expressed a desire to avoid LGBTQ students altogether or to subject them to dangerous conversion therapy, and subsequently refused to comply with the remediation program required by the University. The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics clearly proscribes conduct harmful to patients, imposition of the counselors' views on patients, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The faculty presented Keeton with a remediation plan whereby Ms. Keeton would have greater exposure to the LGBT community and would read peer-reviewed articles regarding improving counseling effectiveness for LGBTQ populations; she refused to take these steps. In July 2010, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an antigay legal organization, filed a lawsuit on Keeton's behalf claiming that her First Amendment rights were violated. In August, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia ruled that the school did not violate the student's constitutional rights and that the remediation plan was reasonable, but Keeton and ADF appealed.

Supporting Augusta State’s position on appeal, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of PFLAG and GSSC, emphasizing the important role of counselors in preventing harm to LGTBQ youth. As part of their missions to help LGBTQ youth feel safe in schools, PFLAG and GSSC explained to the court how essential it is that school counselors honor their professional duty to promote the well-being of all students, especially those youth who are being bullied. LGBT students, compared to any other minority group, are more likely to feel unsafe in school and school counselors can profoundly affect an LGTBTQ youth's mental health.