Last March a group of girls at Coombs Middle School in Banning, Calif., began teasing eighth-grader Ashly Massey in the locker room after gym. "Oh, yeah," they shouted, "she's gay!" After the incident Ashly's gym teacher, Karen Gill, took her out of gym and for eight days she spent that class period outside the principal's office. According to Ashly, Gill's reason was that a lesbian in the locker room made the other girls "uncomfortable." (Gill declined to comment.) That wasn't the last time Ashly, who played several sports at the school, got picked on for her sexual orientation, which she says she first became aware of at age 12. Not long after the locker-room taunting she quit playing basketball after repeatedly being called a dyke on the court.
Ashly, 15, filed suit in federal court last week against her school district, seeking undisclosed monetary damages for violation of her civil rights and asking that the school's staff undergo sensitivity training. She is now a freshman at Beaumont High, where she plays Softball, is planning to try out for football in the fall and has started a gay-straight alliance which meets regularly to discuss sensitivity issues. Says Ashly, "I like telling people how it is so that they can know where I'm coming from."