MARINA DEL REY (CBSLA.com) – An openly gay teacher who is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District for discrimination said she no longer teaches because she doesn’t feel safe.
Cathy Figel claims the LAUSD failed to provide her a “working environment free from discrimination and harassment.”
“To be exposed to anti-gay language is a challenge because, as a lesbian when I first hear it, emotionally, I am angry,” she said.
The $12 million lawsuit alleges she was repeatedly “subjected to anti-gay language, anti-gay graffiti scrawled in her work area, verbal anti-gay slurs by students, vandalism to her car and even physical violence by a student,” according to her lawyers.
Figel, now retired, taught physical education at Marina del Rey Middle School for 13 years. She said she left the job she loved because of repeated anti-gay incidents.
“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 said.
Her lawyer Florencia Albert said: “Sometimes, there were graphic anti-gay statements scrawled on the locker room, scrawled on pieces of paper and pinned to her bulletin board.”
Figel’s car was also vandalized. These are just some of the incidents Figel and her attorney say the district failed to investigate or take seriously.
“I’m not like, oh, this is my chance for something extra. But I don’t want to wake up one day and find out a child’s been harmed because nothing ever changed,” Figel said.
The lawsuit claims Figel’s repeated reports to school administrators were dismissed, and she was told not to identify herself as openly gay.
“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?” Figel asked.
The LAUSD sent CBSLA.com a statement that reads in part: “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.”
“Just say no anti-gay languages at school. And if you do, respond to it like someone just threw a punch because that’s what they did.”