Grassroots Activism

They came.
They saw.
They sprayed ... weed killer.

On July 11, a band of angry lesbians invaded Pearland. Armed with Round-Up herbicide, they spelled "HOMOPHOBIC HIGH" on the lawn of Pearland High School. Outside the southwest corner of the nearby school administration building, they sprayed "HATE KILLS." And then they waited for the grass to die.

In a handwritten letter delivered to the Press, a group called the Lesbian Avengers claimed responsibility for the messages, which it said were meant to protest the firing of softball coach Holly Nuber. As previously reported ["Hardball," July 4], Nuber lost her coaching job weeks after leading Pearland's Lady Oilers to the state championship. In a grievance filed against the district, Nuber charged that her firing stemmed from sexual discrimination and the assumption that she is homosexual.

Since the firing, the coach has exhausted the school district's grievance system. After the district investigated Nuber's complaint, the district's assistant superintendent officially upheld her firing. On July 22, the Pearland Independent School District board met to reconsider her complaint. An emotional Nuber was allowed 30 minutes to present her case. The board then voted, unanimously upholding the decision to terminate her.

Nuber's lawyer, Darah Headley, says she plans to file a federal lawsuit against the district later this month. An anonymous Pearland man has started a legal defense fund.

Both Nuber and her attorney distance themselves from the Lesbian Avengers. Nuber has refused to say whether she is or isn't a lesbian, and by all accounts, she never discussed her sex life with Pearland students, team members or parents. "I keep my private life private," she explains.

Nuber says she was shocked when a teacher and a local reporter called to tell her about the message in the grass. "At first I was worried people would think I did it," she remembers. "I don't condone vandalism -- although I understand why some people are upset."

Pearland school administrators are even less amused. "You don't want to know what I think of the Lesbian Avengers," grouses Pearland ISD spokeswoman Susan Lenamon.

It took two weeks for the grass to die; administrators discovered "HOMOPHOBIC HIGH" in the high school lawn as they arrived for work on July 29. The school district moved quickly to banish the message, tossing the soil and preparing for new grass. Lenamon says the district spent at least $100 to plant new grass in front of the high school.

But "HATE KILLS" will remain outside the administration building. Lenamon explains that the message is not offensive, and it's not as visible as the words on the high school lawn.

The district has filed a police report. But it hasn't filed charges because it doesn't know who to file against.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of the Lesbian Avengers is discussing new actions, including more in Pearland. The Houston Avengers are the local chapter of a national organization established to fight homophobia with "actions" similar to those staged by the militant ACT-UP. Elsewhere, the group's stunts have included releasing 1,000 crickets inside the headquarters of a fundamentalist organization that attempted to "cure" gays, and tossing a stink bomb into a meeting of a similar group.

The Houston spokeswoman for the group, artist/waitress Jennifer Brewer, hopes the grass-spraying will raise the Avengers' profile and help the ten-member group recruit a few more good lesbians.

Holly Nuber, however, will not be among them.
Nuber still retains her teaching contract, and as of last week, grass messages or no grass messages, she planned to return to Pearland High to teach health this fall.

"It will take a lot of guts," she says.


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