A lawsuit which began because a water polo coach who felt he was being discriminated against based on his sexual orientation has now expanded into broader territory, with the coach himself alleging that the school district in which he worked systematically discriminates against homosexuals.
As reported by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, former Charter Oak (Calif.) High water polo coach Mitch Stein filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking reinstatement to his former position and unspecified economic remuneration for lost wages, suffering and distress. Yet, Stein also claims that subsequent investigation into how Charter Oak has treated other employees has unearthed troubling revelations about the district, painting a picture of a school system which treats homosexual employees very different than its heterosexual majority.
According to Stein, when word of his firing originally reached the news in September he was approached by a number of other gay and lesbian employees in the Charter Oak School District who said they also felt discriminated against.
"When those things started to happen, I realized it wasn't going to be resolved," Stein told the Inland Empire. "They have a history of this. That's when I realized this is bigger than just me."
As previously noted here at Prep Rally, the Charter Oak water polo team was undefeated under Stein's rein and even found itself on more solid financial footing after the coach unilaterally drummed up support from a nearby department store chain. Yet, rather than receive a raise or other professional praise, Stein was summarily fired after a series of incidents which began when he made three athletes who had not submitted proof that they had completed physical examinations in time wash cars instead of practice with the team.
It turns out that one of the athletes made to wash cars was the son of Claremont police officer Joe Maddox, who was summoned to the team's practice by his son, who was upset that he wasn't practicing with the team.
According to Stein, as soon as Maddox arrived on the scene he launched into a diatribe against the coach, hurling a homophobic epithet at him in front of the team and even claiming that he was, "going home to print pictures of him."
Evidently Maddox made good on that threat. Within days, the school received two photos of Stein taken from his Facebook account -- one posing with drag queens and one eating a corn dog at a county fair -- and a note from an anonymous author threatening to go to the school board if Stein was not fired.
While the school district might have been able to make a case for Stein's termination based on the photos of him that surfaced, that case is muddied by the way it has handled other similar or more serious transgressions. According to the suit filed in L.A. Superior Court, a number of other teachers were not published even after their questionable photos were brought to light. Among those teachers was one man who had a drunken photo of him taken when he was brazenly exposing his bare chest at a function. Perhaps more troublingly, a former female water polo coach was rehired even after she admitted to drinking alcohol with her underaged students in 2008.
For Stein's part, he claims that he won't back down from the suit now as a matter of principal to his daughter, who is a student at the school and competed for her father's team. Since his firing, the water polo team, a number of parents of its members and a variety of other gay rights groups have stepped forward to protest for his reinstatement and support Stein on Facebook and other social media sites.
"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," Stein told the Inland Empire. "I am a dad. They're always talking about protecting the children. Who's protecting my child and her rights?"