Ex-teacher’s lawsuit claims she was told to dress 'more feminine'

A former civics teacher filed a federal lawsuit against a Virginia school district, alleging she was told by administrators that she needed to "dress more traditionally feminine," WRIC reported.

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Dina Persico filed suit against Chesterfield County Public Schools, alleging gender discrimination, according to court documents filed in November in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Persico alleges she was repeatedly harassed by school administrators because she is a lesbian, WRIC reported.

“‘Flamboyant’ was a favorite term of theirs," Persico, who has taught for 13 years, told the television station. “‘Your appearance is too flamboyant, your arm movements are too flamboyant.’ It's said with intent and that intent is to say that you're gay.”

In her lawsuit, Persico alleges she was physically blocked from using a women's restroom, was questioned about her sexual orientation in front of a student's parent and was called into disciplinary meetings to discuss her appearance and "flamboyant" behavior.

Persico told WRIC the alleged harassment was initiated by administrators and other staff at Providence Middle School. Her supervisor at the school told her he did not know how to "deal with people like her," according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Persico taught for two years at the middle school before she was "unexpectedly" transferred to Midlothian High School for the 2017-2018 school year. She alleged in her lawsuit that the harassment intensified at the high school, where she was told the issue with her behavior was her inability to "fit the culture."

"It was suggested that if I seemed more feminine, I would be less intimidating as a person," Persico told WRIC. "'If you just throw a skirt on once in a while, we wouldn't have any of these problems.'" The former teacher also says she was once banned from the ladies room.

“I'm just not a fashion person," she told the television station. "Simple shirt, I put on a second layer because I get cold."

Persico's employee handbook, provided to WRIC by Chesterfield County Public Schools officials, contains only a few lines on dress code that call for a "professional image."

A spokesman for Chesterfield County Public Schools told the television station that it does not comment on pending litigation.