Press Releases

Lesbian teacher settles discrimination lawsuit

The Associated Press
Friday May 24, 2002

Oceanside Unified School District to pay more than $140,000  

and provide employees with annual sensitivity training 



OCEANSIDE – A high school teacher who claimed she was harassed and denied a promotion because she is a lesbian has settled her lawsuit against the Oceanside Unified School District. 

The district will pay Dawn Murray more than $140,000 and provide its employees with annual sensitivity training on issues of sexual orientation discrimination, the Lambda Legal advocacy group said Thursday. 

Murray also resigned as part of the settlement, the district’s lawyer Daniel Shinoff said. 

Murray, a biology teacher at the school for nearly 20 years and winner of national teaching awards, said she was denied a promotion to director of student activities and suffered ongoing harassment by her colleagues at the 2,000-student school north of San Diego. 

Colleagues accused her of having sexual encounters with another teacher on campus during school hours, she said, and her classroom was vandalized. While she told some colleagues she is gay, Murray complained that an unwelcome “outing” in front of staff opened her up to verbal attacks. 

Murray said she was threatened with disciplinary action when she complained. 

An appellate court ruled in April 2000 that Murray had the right to sue the district for discrimination under a 1999 amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The state Supreme Court upheld the ruling in August 2000. 

In a statement, Murray said she hoped the case would show other school districts “if they respond to harassment in an inappropriate way, we will stand up, the laws will protect us, and they will be made to stop.” 

“Young people learn from adult behavior, and it was important to wage this fight to show students all people have to be treated fairly,” she said. 

Shinoff said the district’s insurance carrier would pay the settlement deal. He said the district, however, continues to maintain that “anything that occurred was not the result of discrimination based on her sexual orientation.”