Team rallies around gay coach fired over drag queen photos
Parents and students at a Covina high school are rallying around a former assistant water polo coach who was fired after someone anonymously showed the school principal online photos of the coach eating a corn dog and another of him with drag queens.
Mitch Stein, 35, has filed a wrongful termination suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Charter Oak Unified School District of "animus toward gay and lesbian employees" and holding him to a different standard because he is gay. In addition to unspecified monetary damages, Stein wants his job back.
He was fired after someone dropped off printouts of Stein's Facebook and Myspace pages. The envelope included a photo of Stein wearing eyeliner and surrounded by men decked out in bustiers, wigs and makeup. Another showed him at the L.A. County Fair, pretending to take a large bite out of a batter-dipped hot dog.
Stein said the photos were taken in good fun several years ago.
"I just didn't feel there was anything to hide," he said, noting that the photos in question merely represented gay culture.
Since he was fired, he has been offered coaching jobs from three other districts. But he wants to stay near his daughter, a swimmer and ranked water polo player.
He has remained a fixture at the school, where students still call him "coach" and he was unanimously voted in as president-elect of the aquatics booster club.
"His private life has nothing to do with coaching the water polo team," said Raymond Adams, 43, who has two sons on the team. "I believe the school made a huge mistake, and they should just come forward and admit it and stop wasting the school district's money."
-- Corina Knoll
Photo: Former Charter Oak High School boys water polo coach Mitch Stein, 36, center, is flanked by his partner Hugo Horta, 34, left, and daughter, Devynn Stein, 15, a freshman junior varsity water polo player at Charter Oak High School. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times