Lesbian affair leads to lawsuit

June 14, 1996

Forty-year-old divorced mother Dale Gray is just another vulnerable student, says her lawyer. But according to the University of Alabama, it acted properly to protect her interests in a campus sexual harassment case.

The question of Ms Gray' age is but one strand in a tangled lawsuit that has rocked the women's studies department of the university and provided a media spectacle in a conservative southern state.

Ms Gray is suing the department's former chairwoman, 58-year-old Alice Parker. Ms Parker was demoted and disciplined by the university last year after a brief affair with Ms Gray that university officials deemed inappropriate.

But in one of the most unusual sex harassment cases to reach the United States courts, Ms Gray is seeking compensatory damages from Ms Parker and the university for what she claims was emotional abuse that disrupted her studies.

Ms Gray is pressing her case although she did get her masters and has got a place on a PhD programme at another university.

Her attorney Richard Newton said the age and maturity of his client were irrelevant. "At what point are university professors absolved from responsibility?"

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