A former assistant softball coach at Idaho State University has launched a lawsuit against the college, claiming she was fired after she offered to adopt the baby of a player who wanted to hide the pregnancy from her parents.
Jamie Wiggins, a 38-year-old Christian, claims in her suit that the school violated “rights protected by federal and/or Idaho state law” when she offered to adopt the adult player’s unwanted baby and notes that no terms of her employment at the university “expressly prohibited [Wiggins] from adopting a baby of any current or a former student.”
Wiggins was told of the player’s suspected pregnancy at the end of April 2022 by another teammate, who said the expecting player “was hiding or otherwise not admitting the pregnancy.” Out of concern for her player’s safety, the lawsuit states, Wiggins shared the information with her team’s trainer, Dustin Enslinger, and the softball coach, Andrew Rich.
After meeting with the player, who again denied being pregnant, Wiggins went to the university’s associate athletic director, Robyn Sharp.
In early May, Wiggins received a call from the pregnant girl and her friend, in which she admitted to being pregnant and asked for help.
Feeling it was her Christian duty, Wiggins took the player to the hospital for an ultrasound. It was discovered that the baby was suffering from health issues, and labor needed to be induced. The player was admitted to the hospital, and, the following day, Wiggins and her husband agreed to adopt the baby when it was delivered.
The baby was born on May 10, 2022, and was transferred to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for further treatment.
After the little boy was born, Wiggins told Sharp that she and her husband would be adopting the child, and Sharp reportedly never told her not to proceed with the plan. Wiggins and her husband “regularly visited the NICU to hold and feed the baby, and during this time, they developed a loving, intimate parental bond with the child that grew over time,” the lawsuit states.
By May 14, Wiggins told Pauline Thiros, the university’s athletic director, of the adoption.
Wiggins and her husband were asked to attend a meeting with Thiros and the dean of student services, Craig Chatriand, to discuss a plan for the birth mother to tell her parents about the baby. Insisting the dean could contact the birth mother’s parents directly if he wanted to, Thiros pressed the adopting parents for information about the birth mother, a move that concerned the couple.
“While the Wiggins hoped that the birth mother would tell her parents, they respected her autonomy to make this difficult decision on her own without interference or coercion” by Chatriand or Thiros, the lawsuit states.
The Wiggins ended the meeting amid threats of dismissal by refusing to divulge any more information about the birth mother and telling the school officials to contact the birth mother themselves if they wished to know anything else.
On May 25, the school made good on its threat. Wiggins was told her employment contract would not be renewed and she was let go. Thiros allegedly told Wiggins that she was fired because of her offer to adopt the child.
Sadly, the baby boy, who was born prematurely, was never well enough to leave the hospital. On July 28, he died from complications.
In a statement to EastIdahoNews.com, school officials defended their decision to fire Wiggins, citing “conflicts of interest.”
“While Idaho State University does not normally comment on the specifics of pending litigation, the university will state unequivocally that the health and safety of its students are always its first priority,” the statement reads. “The university is committed to taking action to protect its students whenever necessary.”
“The university CARES team, a group of university professionals trained to assess the needs of students and determine how to support them, regularly convenes to provide guidance in an emergency situation and determine whether there is an immediate threat of harm to a student’s physical or emotional health. This team is well-equipped to marshal university resources in support of pregnant students and new parents,” it continues. “The University CARES team was very involved in this matter.”
“Given the context and facts of this situation and the university’s duty to intervene in actual or perceived conflicts of interest between students and authority figures, when the plaintiff’s contract expired, the university chose not to renew the plaintiff’s one-year contract for another year,” the university states. “The university always has the best interests of the student as its sole motivation. Any allegation that the university’s actions were motivated by other reasons is patently false. The university stands by its decision and plans to vigorously defend against this litigation.”
According to the lawsuit, Wiggins claims the university’s actions caused her “severe emotional distress resulting in physical manifestations, including, for example, anxiety both day and night and sleeplessness, requiring her to undergo medical and mental health treatment.”
She is seeking damages for lost wages and emotional distress.
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