Southern California high school fires openly gay water polo coach

Mitch Stein (Patch.com photo)

Mitch Stein, an openly gay man, was fired as the junior varsity boys water polo coach at Charter Oaks High School in Covina, Calif., after pictures surfaced of him with people dressed in drag. Stein is a graduate of the school and his daughter is a freshman at the school. Stein alleges that he was fired because he is gay. Parents have rallied to his cause, demanding he be reinstated. From the Glendora Patch:

Stein, who previously coached water polo from 1995 to 1998, was fired after coming back to the high school to coach only four months prior to his termination.

One photo shows Stein suggestively holding a corndog to his face and another has Stein posing with men in drag. Stein was never wearing anything sexually suggestive in the pictures nor were any students linked to the photos.

“The only thing these pictures prove is that I’m gay,” Stein said.

The photos, one of which were at least a decade old, were sent to school administrators by a vindictive parent angry at punishment imposed by some athletes by the school's swim coach, Stein said. (I have not seen the photos and Stein's profile on social medis sites is now private). Soon after, Stein was fired.

Stein said he asked the administrator point-blank if there would there be an issue if he (Stein) had been photographed with cheerleaders wearing skimpy outfits. According to Stein, the administrator said “No, because that’s their uniform.” Stein replied “These are drag queens. This is their uniform.”

Stein believes that he was fired because of his sexual orientation, a claim officials deny.

Brad Kane, a local attorney, read about Stein's case on Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook and is helping Stein pursue possible legal action. California has job protection for LGBT people, so of Stein can prove he was fired because he was gay, the school is in trouble. "I can say, and so can any other superintendent, that there are laws that protect - that ensure - that we do not discriminate against any individual," Superintendent Mike Hendricks said.

I was heartened to hear that parents have rallied to Stein. Outsports received an email from a person who says he is a gay athlete and wrote this about the Stein case: "I think it sucks...he is a cool guy."

One coach told Patch that "what he was fired over was not offensive at all." Kim Cory, a water polo parent, wants Stein back and told the Whittier Daily News that while the photos in question were "dumb," they weren't ground for dismissal. "I think he's a fabulous coach," she said.

Stein has raised money for the school's aquatic program and is a proud alum. He is most worried about how his daughter Devynn will cope. She has already been harassed by students calling her dad a transvestite and cross-dresser.

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