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Penn State Told To Silence Lesbian-Baiting Coach


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Penn State Told To Silence Lesbian-Baiting Coach

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: October 11, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) A former star women's basketball player is calling on Penn State to put an end to what is described as a decades-long reign of terror by Lady Lions basketball coach Rene Portland.

Jennifer Harris was a 6 foot guard from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Despite Harris’ outstanding performance as a player during her two-year career at Penn State from 2003 to 2005, Coach Portland repeatedly questioned Harris about her sexual orientation, repeatedly threatened to kick Harris off the team if she found out Harris was a lesbian, and eventually told other players not to associate with Harris because she believed that Harris was gay.

In 2005, Coach Portland abruptly told Harris to find somewhere else to play.

“My departure from Penn State was very painful,” said Harris.

“I struggled with whether I should just walk away and try to forget what happened. I finally realized that I could never put this incident behind me as long as other students were being subjected to the same sort of humiliation and discrimination I experienced from Coach Portland. In the end, I knew I had to speak out. Coach Portland very nearly destroyed not only my athletic career, but also my dream of completing my education and becoming a doctor. I do not want to see a single other student damaged in this way.”

Harris transferred to James Madison University.

Tuesday the National Center for Lesbian Rights sent a letter to Penn State University President Graham Spanier, demanding that action be taken against Portland.

“Coach Portland created an offensive, hostile and intimidating learning environment for players she believed were gay," Portland said.

"She created divisiveness on the team by instructing players not to associate with other players she believed to be gay, or they would be kicked off the team also. Coach Portland’s final insult was to exclude me from the 2004-2005 Awards Banquet, which all of my 2004-2005 Lady Lion basketball teammates were invited to attend.”

This is not the first time Penn State has been asked to take action to stop Coach Portland’s anti-gay crusade.

Portland created a stir in 1986 after she told the Chicago Sun Times she does not allow lesbians on her team, and again in 1991 after Penn State officially added sexual orientation to the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Despite student protests and an alleged investigation into Portland ’s anti-gay conduct, Penn State has refused to take any action against her.

“Coach Portland’s anti-gay recruiting methods and infamous ‘no lesbians’ policy have continued for nearly three decades. Coach Portland’s behavior not only violates the school’s anti-discrimination policy, it is illegal," said NCLR Regional Counsel Karen Doering.

"It is time for Penn State to step up and put an end to this overtly illegal activity.”

©365Gay.com 2005


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