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Lesbian teacher suing LAUSD for $12 million over discrimination

Craig Clough | November 13, 2015

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judgeA former LA Unified teacher is suing the district for $12 million, claiming it failed to protect her from abuse, harassment and discrimination because she is a lesbian.

Cathy Figel taught physical education at Marina del Rey Middle School for 13 years and claims to have endured anti-gay language, anti-gay graffiti scrawled in her work area; exclusion from some school activities, vandalism to her car and physical abuse by a student.

Though the lawsuit was filed in September of 2014, Figel has been seeking publicity recently, issuing a press release about her case through her law firm and also granting an interview to KCAL.

“To be exposed to anti-gay language is a challenge because, as a lesbian, when I first hear it, you know, emotionally I am angry,” Figel told KCAL. “I was supervising the locker room, and it was something to the effect of, you know, gotta watch that lesbian is looking at us.”

Figel claims the district and the LA Unified school board did not respond to her complaints and that she was encouraged not to openly identify as a lesbian. She also claims she was transferred to another school, which she views as a retaliatory action, and she eventually retired.

In statement to LA School Report, a district spokesperson said, “The District is committed to ensuring a hostile-free work environment for all employees. The District does not agree with the allegations or characterization of its actions, and is therefore vigorously defending this lawsuit.”

Figel is receiving vocal support from the LA teachers union, UTLA.

“Creating safe schools for LGBT students, staff and their families is part of UTLA’s campaign ‘The Schools LA Students Deserve.’ UTLA stands with Ms. Figel in this lawsuit to create safe learning and working environments for our LGBT community,” UTLA Vice President Cecily Myart-Cruz, said in a statement.

Figel’s allegations are aimed at a district that has been a vocal advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and has enacted a number of policies aimed at creating a safe environment for them. The district has had a “transgender affirming reference guide” since 2004 and the school board passed a specific LGBT anti-bullying resolution in 2011. It has also since 2013 held an annual “OUT for Safe Schools” program on National Coming Out Day.

Figel, however, says the distinct did not protect her.

“I don’t want to wake up one day and find out a child has been harmed because nothing was ever changed,” shel told KCAL. “I’m an adult, an authority figure, and I’m being exposed to it. What do you think is the occurrence that’s happening to the children?”

See the full KCAL report below.

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