Naval Academy teacher files claim

Man accused of sexual harassment says school has `gender-based double standards'

May 19, 2006|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

A Naval Academy instructor set to stand trial on allegations of sexual harassment has filed an equal opportunity complaint with the Navy, citing "gender-based double standards" in how the school handles such claims.

Lt. Bryan Black, who is accused of using crude and sexually explicit language in front of a mixed group of midshipmen last summer, wrote a detailed account of "off color, wholly inappropriate remarks" made from the lectern at an athletic association dinner May 9.

The letter states that the dinner was attended by several high-ranking academy officials, including the deputy commandant of midshipmen.

The claim, filed two days later, says an unidentified female track coach introduced a female hammer thrower by explaining that the hammer is a steel ball connected by chain to a handle. She then said, according to the letter: "Only real women can handle steel balls."

Later at the event, a Navy swimmer asked Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck if he would buy the steak dinner he promised the team if it went undefeated during the season. The master of ceremonies at the event, whom the letter did not identify, then made a joke using a vulgar term for the male sex organ.

"The slang reference to male genitalia was offensive, yet no prompt corrective action was taken at the time or thereafter for what was utterly offensive and equally inappropriate as anything I might have said in a private setting in mixed company," Black wrote in the letter.

According to investigative documents, Black told midshipmen during a training cruise to Norfolk, Va., that battleships aroused him. He then asked a female midshipman if the warships had a similar effect on her, the documents say, and made improper comments about his ex-wife.

Black's special court-martial has stalled in recent months pending the outcome of several appeals but may resume as soon as June 7. A special court-martial is an intermediate military trial for which the defendant cannot receive jail time.

The academy has struggled to reform a culture deemed "hostile" to women last year by a Pentagon task force. Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the school's superintendent, has taken a hard line against sexual harassment and assault, but some have characterized his stance as a "witch hunt."

In a written response, Rempt thanked the oceanography professor for bringing this to the academy's attention and said an inquiry into the allegations "has been initiated."

"As you know, at the academy, we strive to ensure that we establish and maintain the highest standards of personal and professional behavior," Rempt wrote in the letter. "Any off-color or inappropriate comments detract from the team-building command climate we endeavor to uphold."

Deborah Goode, an academy spokeswoman, declined to comment further.

Charles Gittins, Black's civilian attorney, said the academy's failure to investigate these comments immediately shows that his client is being singled out.

"The Naval Academy has a consistent history of handling females differently than men, and that's clear in all the charges going on now," he said, referring to pending cases against former Navy quarterback Lamar S. Owens and Kenny Ray Morrison, another football player. "I'm outraged as a Naval Academy graduate, and I'll tell you I'm not the only one."

Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, a victim advocacy group that tracks rape and other instances of violence against women in the military, disputed the notion that the academy has gone too far in driving out sexual harassment and assault.

"There are far too many victims of sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence who often inform us that they have not received the justice that they have been seeking," she said. "This incident or these incidents have significantly altered their lives but often have not resulted in any significant impact to the assailant."bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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