The Los Angeles Times’ Corina Knoll reports a Covina, CA’s high school’s assistant water polo coach was terminated after photos from his Facebook and MySpace accounts were circulated to school administrators. Mitch Stein, who previously toiled at Charter Oak High School, found himself 86’d last September after an unidentified person dropped off, “an envelope including a photo of Stein wearing eyeliner and surrounded by men decked out in bustiers, wigs and makeup,” and another photograph of Stein, “at the L.A. County Fair, pretending to take a large bite of a batter-dipped hot dog.” Stein has since filed a wrongful termination suit.
Stein led the boys junior varsity team through an undefeated summer season and was preparing to continue his role in the fall when he was summoned by the school’s principal, Kathleen Wiard. 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.
“I just didn’t feel there was anything to hide,” said Stein, who made his pages private only in the hopes of being reinstated. The photos in question merely represented gay culture, he argued.
Terry Stanfill, an assistant superintendent of Charter Oak Unified, said that the district follows a non-discrimination policy and that teachers and coaches are held to a “higher standard.” He said there were no specific policies about social media and declined to discuss the matter further.