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Former Student Sues Washington School District for Discrimination

Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision(MUKILTEO, Wash.) -- A 21-year-old woman is suing her former high school district, claiming she was prohibited from trying out for the women's basketball team because of her sexual orientation, according to court documents.

Keelie Shay filed charges against the Mukilteo School District, alleging discrimination for her gender and sexual orientation, which she claims violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Shay is seeking compensatory damages, according to the complaint. Her lawyer, Marianne Jones, would not disclose the amount of money she is seeking.

According to court documents, Shay was a starter on the junior varsity team at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Wash., and frequently practiced with the team during off season. In December 2008, according to the lawsuit, she announced that she was a lesbian and involved in a relationship with another girl on the basketball team.

Immediately following her announcement, the lawsuit claims, the basketball coaches, Jody Schauer and a second coach identified in the lawsuit only by the last name Pascoe, "excluded Ms. Shay to the point where Ms. Shay had no alternative but to flee the discrimination and transfer to another school.

Schauer, the varsity coach, had reduced Shay's playing time and removed her as a starter from the team, according to the lawsuit. That March, Schauer told Shay she could not participate in off-season practice, the suit claims, and would not make any women's basketball team the following season, even though tryouts were eight months away. If Shay wanted to play basketball, the lawsuit alleges, she was told she could transfer.

Neither Shay nor Pascoe could be reached for comment, and the Mukilteo School District declined to comment -- as did Schauer.

According to the lawsuit, the school district forced Schauer to let Shay play basketball during the off-season, Shay maintains that her coach still intimidated her, telling her she would be the last person to play.

According to the complaint, the school took no measures to ensure that Shay was on a team for the 2009-2010 basketball season.

In the middle of her senior year, Shay transferred to another school in the district, Mariner High School. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association permitted her to play basketball there.

The lawsuit maintains that the school district is responsible for allowing the discrimination to take place.

"The district knew at the time that it was happening, and they have failed to take care of it for all of these years," Shay's lawyer, Jones, told ABC News.

Although the district ultimately terminated Schauer's employment, it was not because of his treatment towards Shay, according to the lawsuit.

Schauer told ABC News he stopped coaching at Kamiak because of an inconvenient commute.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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