Last August, water polo coach Mitch Stein was called into his boss’ office at Charter Oak High School in Covina, California.
What did his boss have to tell him? That anonymous photos from his Facebook had emerged… photos so offensive and inappropriate that he was being dismissed…
The offending photos were of Stein posing for a photo with a group of men dressed in drag, and an incriminating photo of Stein… pretending to bite a corn dog.
Yeah. That’s it.
The LA Times explains how the dismissal went down. After an undefeated summer of water polo, Coach Stein was called into principal Kathleen Wiard’s office:
In her possession was the corn dog photo and one of Stein among drag queens. Stein said Wiard called the photo “obscene” and asked whether he would approve of a male teacher posing with his daughter in a swimsuit.
“I was like, ‘Now you’re calling me a pedophile?’ ” Stein said. “How does one have anything to do with the other?”
Wiard declined to comment for this article, saying it was a personnel matter.
Stein had posted the photos online several years earlier and never worried that they might cause problems. The corn dog photo had been a joke. The drag queens had an act in a weekly variety show he used to produce at a gay bar in Long Beach. One night they gathered around Stein, who made the devil horns sign with one hand and grinned as the camera flashed.
Stein is a graduate of the high school that dismissed him, and the LA Times explains that while he had to be in the closet when he was a student there, he was pleased to see that there was now a student club for gay kids. However, Stein says it was different for the administration and faculty. “It was a lot like the military, very ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”
While parents from the school have supported Stein, he has not been given his job back. He filed suit against the district in order to help others who are also afraid of termination.
The LA Times quotes Stein regarding the suit:
“I don’t have to worry about it affecting my profession,” Stein said. “I’ll take this all the way. There’s only one outcome and that is that I get put back on the pool deck.”
What do you think of this case? Does Stein have a chance of winning?
What do you think of the alleged inappropriateness of a photo of a man with a corn dog?
Photo of gay pride flag courtesy of Shutterstock