Sunlake High assistant principal says boss made anti-gay remarks
LAND O’ LAKES -
A gay assistant principal at Sunlake High School has filed a complaint against the principal, claiming he made anti-gay and other demeaning remarks to her or about her.
Assistant Principal Deborah Lepley made the complaint as part of a formal response to reprimands about her job performance that she received from Principal Garry Walthall.
On one occasion, Walthall entered a conference room where Lepley and others were meeting and said, “I’m a homophobe. I can’t help it,” according to Lepley’s attorney, James Lowy of Tampa.
On another occasion, Walthall reportedly told two faculty members, “Dr. Lepley was probably a crack baby. That would explain a lot.”
Lepley, 61, is a lesbian and has been in a committed relationship with her partner for 23 years, Lowy wrote in a letter to the Pasco County school district. She has worked for the district for 26 years.
The school district is investigating the allegations against Walthall, but can’t comment further because of the ongoing investigation, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Wednesday.
Lowy wrote to the district on Lepley’s behalf after Walthall raised issues about her job performance. She received a reprimand from Walthall about how she handled a mentally challenged student who became agitated when the student couldn’t have lunch with an administrative assistant.
The principal also has criticized her for other deficiencies, such as embarrassing a department head, assigning work to secretaries without checking with the chief secretary and not being communicative during management meetings, Lowy wrote.
The attorney described those criticisms as “incredibly picayune” and an “obviously unlawful pretext meant to further demean her, single her out due to her age, gender and marital status, and prepare to potentially fire her from her position at Sunlake High School.”
“My client shows up for work every day and does her job,” Lowy wrote. “Her communications skills are not lacking. The problem this year is that she works for a verbally abusive homophobe who is predictably receiving low marks in community surveys.”
Lepley wants to finish her career with the school district, which would mean working at least another four years, Lowy wrote.
She also requests a “cessation of the hostile and homophobic commentary by the principal, and the removal of any and all bogus disciplinary memoranda from her personnel file,” Lowy wrote.