Judge grants Augusta State stay in Keeton case

Augusta State counseling student Jennifer Keeton was told to take sensitivity training on homosexual issues.

A judge has granted part of a request from attorneys representing Augusta State University faculty to halt preliminary court proceedings in the case involving the school and graduate student Jennifer Keeton.

Attorneys are waiting for a decision on the motion to dismiss, which will determine whether Keeton's lawsuit will go to trial.

In documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Augusta last week, Judge Leon Barfield granted the stay of discovery, saying that the defendant's motion to dismiss the case outright has the potential to be "case dispositive," meaning that it could affect the status of Keeton's lawsuit against ASU and that some preliminary actions could be halted.

That was based on a "cursory review" of the motion done to decide whether discovery should be stayed, Barfield stated, and was not a ruling on the merits of the defendant's motion. Barfield did allow the attorneys to move forward with a conference and initial disclosures.

Keeton sued the school because she said it warned her it would expel her from their graduate Counselor Education program because "she holds Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity," according to court documents. The school ordered Keeton to participate in sensitivity training involving homosexuals and transgendered people after she expressed reservations about her ability to counsel them.

School officials say the program is a tool to address weaknesses in Keeton's writing and multicultural competence, court documents show.

School officials said that Keeton wrote in a paper that "it would be hard (for her) to work with this population" and that she told another student that she intended to impose her views on future homosexual clients.

The case attracted controversy, particularly when members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied outside ASU in support of Keeton. A gay-straight alliance group staged a protest against the KKK.

Keeton has denounced the KKK's support.

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