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Fired Coach Alleges Pattern of Discrimination

A coach at a California High School who alleged in a suit against his former school district that he was fired because of his sexual orientation is now claiming that his was not an isolated case. Mitch Stein claims that he has uncovered evidence that the district has a history of systematic discrimination against homosexual employees.

Discrimination-and-Harassment.jpgStein, the former water polo coach for Charter Oak High School, originally filed suit in the Los Angeles Superior Court in an attempt to force the Charter Oak School District to give him back his job. Once the suit became public knowledge, however, he says he began hearing from other homosexual employees who had stories of discrimination to tell. “They have a history of this. That’s when I realized this is bigger than just me,” Stein said.

Stein not only led his players through an unbroken string of wins but managed to persuade a department store chain to provide financial support for the team. His troubles at the school began when he disciplined a player for failing to turn in his physical form. The parents became angry when his son was excluded from a practice session and came to the school, where he made homophobic slurs and issued a warning about pictures.

A few days later, the school received an anonymous letter that included a Facebook photo of Stein eating a corn dog at a local fair and one of him in the company of drag queens. The sender wrote that if the coach was not fired, the school board would be notified. Stein offered to take the photos off his Facebook page, but principal Kathleen Wiard fired him.

In his lawsuit, Stein related two cases that he claims demonstrate a double standard in favor of heterosexuals. One teacher published a photo of himself drunk and shirtless but was allowed to keep his job. A former coach who admitted that she drank with underaged team members was actually rehired afterwards.

The coach’s former team and many of their parents, along with several gay rights groups, have publicly declared their support for Stein. The former educator says he feels an obligation to other victims of discrimination and his own daughter to press forward with the case. “It’s not a fight that we asked for and it’s certainly not one that we wanted, but we’re certainly not going to back down from a bully,” he said.

If you are a California school administrator with a question about school district related employment law, student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district employment law issue.