LOCAL NEWS

Westminster athlete sues coach, school for discrimination after reporting sexual harassment

Mar 9, 2023, 5:10 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm

FILE: Westminster College in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kristin Murph...

FILE: Westminster College in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A student and soccer player is suing Westminster College and her coach for discrimination, claiming she was mistreated after reporting sexual harassment.

The woman, identified as Naomi Kehl, alleged in the lawsuit that she and other new players on the soccer team were subject to an inappropriate hazing activity on the team bus on the way to a game.

According to the lawsuit, 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 to sit in what they call the “hot seat.” It’s an activity that “has become an initiation ritual for both transfer and freshmen players on the college’s women’s soccer team and has been for years.”

The seat is directly across the aisle from, and adjacent to the women’s soccer coach, Tony LeBlanc’s seat. During the activity a spotlight is shone on the player and they are required to answer “sexually inappropriate and personally invasive questions posed by team veterans into a microphone that broadcasts the player’s answers throughout the team bus.”

The questions included personal questions about sex and  “theoretical” drug preferences.

Kehl described her experience as feeling “trapped” and “sick to her stomach” as she anticipated being pressured to respond to invasive questions “particularly a young girl and particularly in front of her male coach.”

The lawsuit states, “In the presence of Coach LeBlanc, those in the “hot seat” are asked, and expected to answer, these highly offensive and intrusive questions about their personal sex lives, including explicit details about specific sexual conduct and activities, all while Coach LeBlanc is not only privy to this information by virtue of these “hot seat” sessions unfolding in his presence, but also with Coach LeBlanc himself actively participating in or engaging with these sexually explicit “hot seat” interrogations.”

The document explains that instead of putting a stop to the hazing behavior, LeBlanc and the upperclassmen instructed players that “what happens on the bus, stays on the bus.”

Following the incident, Kehl’s father filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Title IX Office. LeBlanc was put temporarily on administrative leave and missed one game during that time.

While Kehl regularly played in soccer matches previously, the lawsuit alleges after the sexual harassment complaint, she was benched and did not play a single minute of any soccer game after LeBlanc returned.

In response to LeBlanc’s actions, Kehl filed a lawsuit against LeBlanc and Westminster College for discrimination, claiming LeBlanc acted in retaliation for the sexual harassment complaint filed against him by Kehl’s father.

Westminster released the following statement about the lawsuit:

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.

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Westminster athlete sues coach, school for discrimination after reporting sexual harassment