Hundreds of people packed a highly charged Anderson County School Board meeting Monday night to protest the alleged actions of a school counselor and Superintendent Sheila Mitchell in handling a parent complaint involving their teen daughter and another female student in a same-sex relationship.
On Tuesday, the student’s father, Brad Briscoe, provided the Herald-Leader with a complaint he filed to the school board against the two school officials, accusing them of ethical violations and not communicating with the Briscoes.
The complaint, written by attorneys at Schuette Law Group in Bowling Green representing Briscoe, his wife Stacy and their daughter, a 17-year-old girl, said Mitchell and the counselor have violated state regulation and the Code of Ethics from the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.
The complaint said the counselor acted inappropriately by encouraging the student to seek a legal consultation regarding emancipation without her parents’ knowledge or consent.
The code, in part, says educators have the obligation to “take reasonable measures to protect the health, safety, and emotional well-being of students” and must communicate to parents information which should be revealed in the interest of the student, according to the complaint.
The allegations against the counselor arise out of events that took place at Anderson County High School during the spring semester of the 2022-23 school year which were “seriously harmful,” according to the complaint.
“The complaint against Supt. Mitchell arises out of her mishandling of the internal investigation into the counselor’s’ conduct,” the complaint said.
In February, the student told her parents that she and her female classmate were in a romantic relationship and had been since the fall of 2022, the complaint said.
“The Briscoes expressed to (their daughter) their strong opposition to homosexuality, which was based upon convictions derived from their Christian faith. At the same time, they assured (her) of their unconditional love and support for her as their child,” the complaint said.
Beyond their moral concerns about the daughter’s newly professed identity, the complaint said, the Briscoes were deeply upset that she had deceived them for months regarding the nature of her relationship with the classmate.
“To address the former, they forbade her from further contact with classmate. To address the latter, they restricted her driving privileges for two weeks as a disciplinary consequence for her dishonesty,” the complaint said.
The complaint said the reason for the daughter’s punishment was her dishonesty with her parents, not her sexuality.
The daughter “readily acknowledges that her parents have been supportive of her with respect to her efforts to understand her identity,” the complaint said.
The counselor acted inappropriately by orchestrating a scheme based on patently false allegations of emotional abuse against the parents, by directing the student to surreptitiously record family discussions at the Briscoe home for the purpose of provoking Brad and Stacy Briscoe to make statements that could be framed as “emotional abuse,” and by consistently failing to advise the parents of her concerns about the student, the complaint said.
Mitchell acted inappropriately by conducting an “investigation” of the counselor that did not hold her accountable for multiple alleged violations of the code of ethics, the complaint said.
On Tuesday, Mitchell told the Herald-Leader in an email, “because of the student’s privacy rights under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Kentucky Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, I am not able to comment on anything stated by the parents in recent days, including at our school board meeting.
“When I was informed of the situation, I conducted an investigation, sought legal guidance, and followed applicable law and policy. I am unable to provide any further detail or comment without a release signed by the parents,” said Mitchell.
Parents, residents raise concerns in terse board meeting
At Monday’s school board meeting, Briscoe asked board of education members to hold the superintendent accountable for conducting an inadequate investigation.
“We are asking you to demonstrate courage by doing whatever it takes to make Anderson County school system a safe place for students and their families,” Briscoe said. “By doing this, you’ll be carrying out your duties as a school board in changing this school system for the greater and the will of this community.”
He asked the superintendent to hold the counselor accountable for “trying to cancel Stacey and me as our daughter’s parents for making a false report to social services.”
“The easy move is to sweep this under the rug,” Briscoe said. “The families of this community obviously are asking you to be courageous, to step up as our representatives and do the right thing.”
”This school employee and that superintendent, their actions should not and cannot be allowed to stand,” Briscoe said.
Anderson County Board of Education attorney Grant Chenoweth said the allegations are only one side of the story, and there are additional facts and details about the incident. The board doesn’t have legal authority to take action concerning individual employees with the school, only the superintendent has that power, according to Chenoweth.
Anderson County resident Marty Terry encouraged people to contact Frankfort.
“What will it take for all of you to have the moral courage to stand up for the Briscoe family, or at least protect the child? Does anyone here have faith in the superintendent and the swamp that is the Anderson County school system?” Terry said.