Florida settles suit with former player

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 12:42 a.m.

About a year after claiming she was discriminated against and dismissed from the Florida softball team because of her sexual orientation, former catcher Andrea Zimbardi has reached an agreement that ends her lawsuit against the school.

Though there was no monetary settlement, Florida agreed to several changes in its antidiscrimination policies and extensive training for staff and athletes - a process that began with a two-hour session Monday with the school's top athletic administrators.

``They did not admit liability and continue to deny that she was released for anything regarding her sexual orientation,'' said Karen Doering, staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who represented Zimbardi. ``But they did recognize the larger issue of homophobia in sports and the impact it can have on student athletes. One of the things Andrea was insistent on was if we're going to resolve this suit, it was very important to her that the school implement training and so forth to help ensure that other athletes be judged based on their skills and abilities rather than their sexuality. It is a satisfactory conclusion.''

As part of the agreement, Florida will include sexual orientation in its annual nondiscrimination staff training; amend its nondiscrimination materials to include sexual orientation, create a method in which student-athletes can report alleged violations of discrimination and develop guidelines on prayer during practices or athletic events.

``The University of Florida is committed to creating a positive atmosphere for all student-athletes,'' associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Lynda Tealer said in a statement. ``We feel that the terms of this agreement support our commitment and facilitates the provision of additional tools and training to our coaches, student-athletes and staff.''

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