Dina Persico is a former Virginia teacher who filed a lawsuit accusing school administrators of gender discrimination.
Persico, a former teacher in Chesterfield County, alleges that administrators told her she was too masculine and needed to be more feminine, WRIC reported.
The lawsuit against Chesterfield County Public Schools alleges gender discrimination and Persico said she believes she was repeatedly harassed for being a lesbian.
Persico said she was even banned from using the women’s restroom at one point.
After teaching for over a decade, Persico suffered a stroke that doctors linked to her work.
Persico has been advised by doctors not to return to her job.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Dina Persico Was Harassed After Principal Learned She Was Gay, She Says
Dina Perisco is a former civics teacher who spent more than 10 years teaching in Virginia before she encountered discrimination and harassment at Chesterfield County Public Schools, she told WRIC.
Despite teaching without incident for a decade at another school, Persico said the harassment began after the principal of Providence Middle School learned she was gay and married to another teacher.
“It’s very clear to me that my wife was discriminated against because of the way that she expresses her gender,” her wife Erin Guthe told WRIC. “I was actually in the meeting where the assistant principal told her to change her hairstyle.”
Persico said that the harassment got worse when she moved to a job at Midlothian High School.
“Flamboyant was a favorite term of theirs,” she told the station. “‘Your appearance is too flamboyant, you’re arm movements are too flamboyant,’ it’s said with intent and that intent is to say that you’re gay.”
2. Administrators Repeatedly Told Persico She Was Too ‘Masculine,’ She Says
Persico says that administrators repeatedly urged her to make her appearance more “feminine.”
“It was suggested that if I seemed more feminine, I would be less intimidating as a person,” she said.
“‘If you just throw a skirt on once in a while, we wouldn’t have any of these problems,” she recalled a principal telling her.
“This is gender discrimination,” Persico’s attorney, Colleen Quinn, added. “Just this on-going barrage of criticism because of how she dresses.”
“I’m just not a fashion person,” Persico explained. “Simple shirt, I put on a second layer because I get cold.”
“They even suggested I get bangs,” Persico added.
3. Persico Says She Was Once Banned From Using The Women’s Restroom
Persico told the news station that administrators went as far as banning her from the ladies’ room in school.
“I went to put my hand on the door and he actually blocked me and was like, ‘no, that’s really not appropriate, you going in there with all the, you know, young female students,'” she recalled.
“It was an assault on my person, and then it was like your basic human dignity, I just need to use the restroom,” she said. “That’s all I need to do.”
4. Persico Suffered a Work-Related Stroke, Doctors Said
Persico suffered a mini-stroke that a doctor told her was related to her work.
“She said it was 100 percent related to stress,” said Persico.’
Guthe told the station the experience was devastating for her partner.
“She has lost her entire sense of self-identity and who she is,” she said.
Persico said she wanted to teach civics since she was a child.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “You get to teach kids what it means to be a citizen and how to participate in government.”
5. Persico Is Suing the School District for Gender Discrimination
Persico was advised by her doctor not to return to work after the stroke. She has filed the lawsuit in hopes that it will bring change to the schools, she said.
“Number one, they get some training and understand what they did to me was wildly inappropriately,” says Persico.
“I just felt like this was a case that cried out for awareness,” Quinn added.