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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 8, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 06
Lesbian teacher sues school district for harassment
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Lesbian teacher sues school district for harassment

Was told to be more feminine

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Lesbian former civics teacher is suing the Virginia school district where she used to work for harassment because of her sexual orientation and gender expression.

Dina Persico says school officials told her to dress in a 'more feminine' way, and at one point barred her from using the women's restroom at her workplace.

The ex-teacher said the alleged harassment was started by staff at Providence Middle School but got worse when she moved on to work at Midlothian High School.

'It was suggested that if I seemed more feminine, I would be less intimidating as a person,' explained Persico.

Persico charged that one school principal even questioned her appearance, telling her, 'If you just throw a skirt on once in a while, we wouldn't have any of these problems.'

Persico, who has filed a federal lawsuit, told the local ABC 8News channel that school administrators told her that her 'appearance is too flamboyant.'

She added that 'It's said with intent, and that intent is to say that 'you're gay.'

The former teacher explained that she normally wore a shirt, pants, sneakers, and a sweater or fleece to work. She said that her work outfits were similar to those of other colleagues, highlighting one male English teacher specifically, who were not asked by school officials to change their appearance.

Persico's employee handbook does not specify much in the way of dress code, stating only that teachers must have a 'professional image.'

Persico also alleged that she was asked to grow bangs in a school meeting where her wife, who is also a teacher, was present.

Persico's wife, Erin Guthe, told ABC 8News that 'It's very clear to me that my wife was discriminated against because of the way that she expresses her gender.

'I think I, and women like me, are given more of a pass because we appear more feminine.'

Persico says that she suffered harm to her career and to her health. Since the harassment began, she had a mini-stroke, which her doctor said was '100 percent related to stress.'

The school district declined to provide a statement to 8News, saying it did not comment on pending lawsuits.

Persico said she hopes the lawsuit will mean that the district trains staff properly and that employees learn that what 'they did to me was wildly inappropriate.'

Her former students told ABC 8News that she was an exceptional teacher.

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