Archive for Friday, November 30, 2001

Senator suing teacher, school

Suit alleges teacher showed videotapes of her explaining views on suffrage

November 30, 2001


— A Kansas state senator facing an ouster drive regarding her views on women's suffrage has gone to court about a videotape that shows her being asked to sign the recall petition.

Sen. Kay O'Connor and her husband, Art O'Connor, said the videotape of the scene at the door of their home was made without their knowledge and was shown at an Olathe high school.

"I am offended," O'Connor, R-Olathe, said Wednesday. The O'Connors' lawsuit, filed in Johnson County District Court, said the couple's privacy was invaded and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

O'Connor drew national attention in September after she was quoted as saying that passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, was "not necessarily" in the nation's best interest.

She later said that she

wouldn't take the vote away from women, but that in an ideal America, they would raise families and not feel the need to cast ballots.

Her remarks moved a constituent a female middle school teacher in Lenexa to organize the recall effort.

In their lawsuit, the O'Connors said a woman came to their home about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 10 and asked Art O'Connor to sign the petition. He called his wife to the door. She and the woman, whom she did not know, discussed the recall effort for a few minutes.

O'Connor said in the lawsuit that another person, whom she did not see at the time, was videotaping the discussion from a distance.

The lawsuit alleges that Barbara Fossati, a teacher at Olathe North High School, later showed the tape to students and faculty there in an "unauthorized political forum."

The couple also allege that Fossati commented that the tape provided justification for voters to sign the recall petition.

The lawsuit was filed against Fossati, the Olathe school district, the woman at the door and person who shot the videotape, identified as Jane and John Doe.

Olathe Supt. Ron Wimmer said he was contacted by O'Connor last week and told about the video. Wimmer said he talked with Fossati on Monday and was told she had shown the tape to "a couple of teachers." He said students did not see the tape.

District policy prohibits political activity by staff members during school hours and on school property.

Wimmer said Fossati's actions were inappropriate. He said Fossati told him Monday she would not show the tape again at school.

Wimmer said that information was conveyed to O'Connor's lawyer, Scott Hattrup, before he filed the lawsuit. The superintendent said the school district would seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.

However, Hattrup said other issues are involved. He said the taping violated a Kansas privacy law that forbids "using outside a private place any device for hearing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds originating in such place ... without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy therein."

Besides monetary damages, the O'Connors' lawsuit seeks a jury trial, a permanent injunction against showing of the tape and payment of attorney costs. They also want the tape turned over to the court.

A hearing on the restraining order has been scheduled for Dec. 20.

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