- Dina Persico, a former teacher at a middle and high school in Virginia’s Chesterfield County Public Schools, says she was regularly harassed for being a lesbian.
- She said that administrators told her to wear skirts, get bangs, and be more feminine.
- She also says she was once barred from the school’s public women’s bathroom and was allegedly told it was “not really appropriate” for her to share a restroom with “young female students.”
- She’s suing the school district for $US700,000 in damages.
A former Virginia teacher is suing a school district, saying she was repeatedly harassed for being a lesbian and was told to “be more feminine” by administrators.
Dina Persico, a former teacher at a middle and high school in Chesterfield County Public Schools, filed a lawsuit late last year alleging that she was discriminated against because of her gender while working in the district.
She said she was told to wear skirts, get bangs, and be more feminine in order to be “less intimidating as a person,” Persico told WRIC.
“Flamboyant was a favourite term of theirs,” she said of school administrators. “‘Your appearance is too flamboyant, you’re arm movements are too flamboyant,’ it’s said with intent and that intent is to say that you’re gay.”
Persico alleged in her lawsuit that she was first harassed by administrators at Providence Middle School and later at Midlothian High School.
She said she dressed in a non-gender conforming way – she has a short haircut, does not wear much makeup or jewellery, and prefers slacks and shirts to dresses and skirts.
But Persico said she was regularly questioned about her attire, and told she couldn’t wear casual clothes and athletic shoes, despite many male teachers doing so.
She told WRIC that one administrator said: “If you just throw a skirt on once in a while, we wouldn’t have any of these problems.”
An employee handbook for the school states that staff for schools should “dress and groom themselves in a manner that portrays a professional image.” It does not go into detail about what a professional image entails.
Persico also said she was once banned from the women’s bathroom and told it was “not really appropriate” for her to share a restroom with “young female students.”
Persico, who said she worked in another Virginia school district for a decade without issue, told WRIC that the alleged harassment started when the principal at Providence Middle School learned she was gay and married to another teacher in the district.
“It’s very clear to me that my wife was discriminated against because of the way that she expresses her gender,” Persico’s wife, Erin Guthe, told WRIC.
Persico left the district in February 2018, after requesting medical leave for stress and anxiety. Months earlier, she had gone on leave after suffering a mini stroke that doctors told her was stress related.
In her lawsuit, she asks for $US700,000 damages. She also hopes that her lawsuit leads to change within the district.
“Number one, they get some training and understand what they did to me was wildly inappropriately,” she told WRIC.
INSIDER has contacted Chesterfield County Public Schools for a comment on the lawsuit.
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