Monday, July 13, 2009

Mesa College fires award-winning coach and partner for being lesbians

National Center for Lesbian Rights Files Title IX Retaliation Lawsuit on Behalf of Former Basketball Coaches
Lawsuit alleges gender and sexual orientation discrimination at San Diego Mesa College

San Diego, CA,
July 24, 2008

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firms of Boxer & Gerson, LLP and Stock Stephens, LLP filed a lawsuit today in state court in San Diego, California on behalf of Lorri Sulpizio, the former Head Coach of the women’s basketball team at San Diego Mesa College (Mesa), and Cathy Bass, the former Director of Basketball Operations at Mesa. The complaint alleges that, despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and demonstrated track record of success leading the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials unlawfully fired both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year after they spoke out about the unequal treatment of female athletes and women coaches and following publication in a local paper of an article identifying them as domestic partners...

The complaint alleges that Mesa officials retaliated against Sulpizio and Bass for repeatedly raising concerns about unequal treatment of female athletes and faculty, as well as discriminating against them and ultimately firing them based on their gender and sexual orientation. The complaint names Mesa Athletic Director Dave Evans, San Diego Mesa College, and the San Diego Community College District as defendants...

Lorri Sulpizio served as Head Coach of the Mesa women’s basketball team for five years, from 2002-2007, after spending three years as an Assistant Coach and then a year as Interim Head Coach. She regularly led the team to championship play at tournaments, and secured high-level finishes in Pacific Coast Conference Championship tournaments in several seasons. The Mesa women’s basketball team won first place in the 2001-2002 season and third place in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. Under Sulpizio’s leadership, 50 percent of student-athletes from the women’s basketball team went on to four-year schools, which was higher than the average from Mesa’s other athletic teams. Also, more of Mesa women’s basketball student-athletes advanced to play ball at four-year colleges and more completed Bachelor’s degrees than the average from other San Diego community colleges.

Cathy Bass began working at Mesa as Assistant Coach to the women’s basketball team in 1999, and was appointed as an adjunct faculty member and made Director of Basketball Operations for the team in 2006. In that capacity, she was an integral part of the successful women’s basketball program at Mesa.

Lorri Sulpizio and Cathy Bass are registered domestic partners in the State of California, and together they have three children.

See full complaint.

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