Town to pay deviant....no, not a politician
Standing Up After Fearing Standing Out
By JULIET MACUR
BLOOMBURG, Tex., April 14 - In this rural East Texas town, where news spreads among the 375 residents through phone calls and gossip-gathering trips to the Shell Mart, Merry Stephens knew the rumors about her.
Stephens is a lesbian, the townsfolk whispered.
Though it was true, Stephens denied it for five years while she was the coach of a championship high school basketball team in Bloomburg, afraid the truth would cost her a job.
Last December, the board of the Bloomburg Independent School District, in a 4-3 vote, began proceedings to fire Stephens for what she said was homophobia veiled as unfounded allegations of insubordination. She was put on administrative leave.
Stephens contested the charges, calling in lawyers from the Texas State Teachers Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and last week she agreed to a settlement with the school district on condition that she refrain from further legal action.
The district will buy out the last two years of Stephens's contract, amounting to about $100,000, one of her lawyers said.
"The school board expected me to pack up and get out of Dodge," Stephens, 39, said. "But I couldn't let them do that to me and humiliate me anymore. I couldn't let them win just because they think it's their duty to rid the world of lesbians."
The biggest happening of the year is the town's Cullen Baker County Fair, a celebration commemorating the townsfolk's murder of an infamous outlaw in the 1800's. They poisoned his whiskey, shot him in the head and dragged his body through town, one resident said with pride.
Stephens learned quickly that everyone in town was interested in everyone else's business.
"They'd test me to try to figure out if I was a lesbian or not," she said. "They'd ask if I had a boyfriend or if I wanted one. I lied because I knew it would be career suicide to admit anything."
In 2000, Stephens moved in with Sheila Dunlap, the school's bus driver and a teacher's aide. Dunlap, whose family has lived in Bloomburg for more than 100 years, had two children and was in the process of divorcing her husband of 25 years.
Some parents of Stephens's players wanted her gone. Craig Hale, who owns an oil company, said he does not want a lesbian teaching his children and possibly influencing the way they think. His daughter, Kaitlyn Cornelius, played for Stephens last season and said she felt uncomfortable around the coach, though she said Stephens never did anything inappropriate.
"I had nothing against her as a person," Hale said, but if he stood up for "one lesbian" that would mean he was "for them adopting kids, and my morals and the Bible doesn't allow that."
Three sisters on last year's team - Amy, Amber and April Medina - said that Stephens was a great coach and that they did not mind that she was a lesbian, though they never knew she was, for sure.
Still, the debate about her continued. Stephens said that she was blamed when one of her former players, now in college, revealed she was a lesbian. That player's parents insisted that the superintendent, Jerry Hendrick, fire Stephens because she had "converted their daughter," Stephens said. Hendrick and all but one of the six school board members did not return phone messages seeking comment on the controversy.
Byers said in the deposition that another board member, Ronnie Peacock, told him that Stephens "doesn't deserve to work here" because she is a lesbian. In that deposition, Byers recalled Peacock saying: "We're bonded or insured for a million dollars apiece. We ought to fire her and see what happens."
Since leaving their school jobs, Stephens and Dunlap, who live in a spacious log house on nine acres, have started a concession business selling fruit drinks at fairs. They are still the talk of the town, especially because the school board election is coming up, pitting candidates who were pro-Coach Stephens against those who opposed her.
Guess these must be the "enemies of faith" that Frist is talking about....
This is ridiculous. "Converted"? Uh, two things. One, lesbianism, or the appearance of lesbianism, is as common in college as Friday night drunks. Lots of girls think they really like girls until they actually get into a relationship with one and then realize when generations of men realize, women can really suck. Then, a lot of these teenagers realize that while they may not be uncomfortable having sex with women occasionally, they do not want to make their lives with another woman. Two, she fucking plays basketball. Hello. Uh, basketball is filled with women who date women. It is not some kind of shock to figure out that hey, she plays basketball, she dates girls. When I was in school, the woman's basketball team was dating each other.
Pat Summitt of Tennessee has become infamous for not recruiting lesbians, which is why I am happy when they lose.
But why do they care? What does it matter if this woman dates other women. Has there been even the mildest suggestion of improper behavior? No? Then what is the concern. As long as she doesn't mess with players, then who she sleeps with is nobody's business,
posted by Steve @ 3:10:00 PM