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Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit

And the team said, long-haired freaky people need not apply

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A family of a 14-year-old is suing the Greensburg (Ind.) schools over its policy requiring short hair for boys playing sports. From The Indianapolis Star:

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players’ hair violate their son’s right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don’t have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players’ hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued. …

But the school district claims the policy didn’t violate the boy’s rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

Courts have split hairs (har!) in the past over these cases, sometimes saying that, yes, if a school wants to require every boy to have a crewcut to play sports, that’s OK, as long as the activity is not part of the instructional day.

You might be asking — hey, isn’t Greensburg already notorious for a case of intolerance? Why, yes, it is — the suicide of gay Greensburg High student Billy Lucas was the impetus for the It Gets Better Project to fight gay teen bullying and suicides.

As for the haircut case, if the middle-school coach is lucky, someday this 14-year-old and some of his friends will adopt a bastardized version of his name as the moniker of their very popular rock band.

Greensburg Junior High basketball coach, gaze upon your future self.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:59 am

Cheerleading: not a sport

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Collegiate cheerleaders perform a high splits ...

You're not athletes! (Image via Wikipedia)

That’s not me saying cheerleading isn’t a sport, even if I did type that headline my ownself.

That’s a Connecticut judge, ruling whether Quinnipiac University could count competitive cheerleading as a sport in order to meet requirements under Title IX, the federal law that prevents gender discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding. U.S. District Judge Steven Underhill, sitting in Bridgeport, ruled in favor of the school’s former women’s volleyball team, which sued after the school announced it would chop (as well as men’s golf and men’s outdoor track) in favor of competitive cheerleading for 2009-10, a lawsuit that Underhill later expanded to a class-action case.

Actually, the lawsuit looked at all sorts of questions about roster-size manipulation Quinnipiac, in the judge’s mind, made to comply with Title IX, but the headlines are uniformly about how cheerleading is not a sport. And why not, after Underhill made this statement, reported in the Hartford Courant:

“Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX; today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

The immediate result of this case is that the Fighting Pollsters have 60 days from the July 21 ruling date to get in compliance with Title IX, and specifically must bring back the women’s volleyball team.

However, while Underhill unequivocally declared that cheerleading is not a sport, no matter how much paralysis it has caused, like the current U.S. Supreme Court he made his ruling narrow enough so that everything isn’t 100 percent settled.

After all, Underhill, by saying “sometime in the future” it could qualify as a sport, ruled that cheerleading isn’t a sport not because it’s doesn’t have a ball or stick. It’s because it’s not organized enough.

So I’m thinking the takeaway for those in the cheerleading community — or the public school community — that want sis-boom-bahing declared as a sport would be: Get organized. Start leagues. Have conference championships. Get to the point where people are playing football on the sidelines to fire up the crowd into rooting harder for the cheerleaders.

A yanked swimming scholarship, and why it's not wrong for parents to speak up

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The default position whenever parents get heavily involved in an athletic dispute involving their child is, they’re obviously overbearing, overindulgent busybodies who are turning their kids into pussies. (I’m not sure what the default substitute for “pussies” would be if the athlete is a girl.)

However, a lawsuit over a school’s role in a lost swimming scholarship has emerged in the St. Louis area that, if the parents’ allegations are true, makes me think: Yeah, I’d be suing their asses off, too.

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And I would hire Al Pacino from “And Justice for All” as my lawyer, for the drama.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peter and Marzie McCoy of Wildwood, Mo., are suing their local school district after their daughter, a state championship swimmer, briefly lost her scholarship to Colorado State University after it reviewed a recommendation form filled out by a Lafayette High School counselor that was less than flattering. In theory, everybody followed procedure. The problem was, say that parents, that the counselor filling out the form had never met their daughter. From the July 9 Post-Dispatch:

The recommendation form, signed by Lafayette High School counselor Beth Brasel, said that Shannon McCoy was “below average” in five personal traits including initiative, character, integrity and leadership.

The McCoys said that the description of their daughter was “grossly inaccurate” and that Brasel had never met Shannon before the form was filled out.

Rockwood spokeswoman Kim Cranston said it was the district’s understanding that the recommendation form had nothing to do with the rescinding of McCoy’s scholarship, based on their contact with a Colorado State University admissions officer.

A message left Thursday for the admissions officer was not returned. [Brasel was also not available for comment.]

Predictably, many of the comments left by readers paint the parents (and their daughter, with her mere 3.0 grade-point average in an age of grade inflation) as spoiled brats, especially because they’re not dropping the lawsuit even after Colorado State, after the parents’ appealed, gave the scholarship back. At 80 percent of out-of-state tuition, room and board, that scholarship money is no small potatoes. Here is a comment by someone called cardsphan:

Cry me a river Parents. Way to teach your daughter to be a spoiled brat. What parents, teach their kids that if something goes wrong just sue for money to make it better. Did you ever think that maybe your daughter didn’t deserve a scholarship? I had one for athletics out of Marquette HS but i also had a 3.6 GPA. A 3.0 is not hard to get in HS, maybe the girl was to much into swimming and not her grades. IM JUST SAYIN

Given that grammar, I can believe a 3.6 GPA would be related to grade inflation.

As usual when these stories hit the local press, there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know why that particular counselor filled out the form, and why she filled it out as she did. Did she really know Shannon McCoy? Had she heard stuff from other people? Had the parents and the school clashed in the past? Over what?

Until court papers are filed in response, we won’t know the school’s side of the story. Maybe Peter and Marzie McCoy are big pains in the ass who are doing their daughter a disservice. Or, maybe they do need to advocate for their daughter — and others in a similar situation — against an idiotic and possibly vindictive school bureaucracy.

The point is, we don’t know. And the other point is, until we do, we can’t make snap judgments about the parents — or the school, for that matter. But what I do feel confident saying is that it is NEVER wrong for a parent to speak out and least ask what is going on, or ask why something happened the way it happened.

There is a time and place for parents to advocate for their child, and parents deserve answers to their questions. On the other hand, parents need to approach these issues in as reasonable a manner possible, which admittedly can be difficult when you see your own child getting hurt. I am of a belief that reasonable people can reach reasonable conclusions. And, yes, sometimes that means parents finding out the hard truth that their kid is an asshole.

However, if that’s not the case here, if the school cavalierly and/or maliciously filled out a form in a way that screwed up a huge opportunity for Shannon McCoy — well, I hope the parents get every dime they’re asking for. I would want to, in that situation.

Parents sue after kids cut from hockey team

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Greater Toronto Hockey League

Image via Wikipedia

You might expect some gnashing of teeth and rending of garments from me about the state of youth sports in America over the news that parents of two kids cut from their hockey team have sued over that decision. Except that the lawsuits are in Canada, and there are lines to be read between that make you wonder whether this is the culmination of a long, sordid conflict.

From the June 28 Toronto Star:

Two sets of parents are suing the Greater Toronto Hockey League, one of its clubs and four coaches for $25,000 each because their sons were cut by the Avalanche Minor Sports Club midget junior A team during tryouts in April.

It’s the first time parents in the GTHL have ever taken legal action against the league or one of its teams for declining the services of their children, says league president John Gardner.

Even nationally, it’s a rare event.

“We have had very few lawsuits on ice time or (player) cuts,” said Hockey Canada’s Glen McCurdie director of member services. “There are more threats than actual suits.”

Vito Valela and David Longo are both suing on behalf of their sons, Christopher and Daniel respectively. Besides the GTHL, Avalanche Minor Sports president Anthony Iantorno as well as team officials Doriano Pistarelli, Andy Vandenberk, Felice Guglielmi and Peter Posca are named as defendants in the action.

“Their direct actions have caused irreparable psychological damage to Daniel Longo’s self esteem as an impressionable teenager and demoralized Daniel as an athlete and team hockey player with his peers,” the Longo statement of claim reads. “The conduct by all defendants destroyed the dignity of my son, whom in good conscience gave his team nothing but his best efforts.”

Valela’s statement of claim states: “When Christopher was advised of his termination by my wife and I, he vowed never to play the game he loved since childhood. And, moreover, his misguided group of defendants demoralized my wife and I, whom had gone well beyond the call of duty as parents in support of the Toronto Avalanche hockey team for two seasons.”

None of the claims have been proved in court.

Irreparable damage to self-esteem? Sounds pretty pathetic, right? Well, it is.

However, these players are not 8-year-olds. They’re in a league for 15- and 16-year-olds, on the cusp of, perhaps, a pro hockey career. [EDIT: I have come to learn from a former GTHL parent that the league in question is lower-level, with these players having no hope of a pro hockey career.] These parents have probably sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into their kids’ hockey careers. I’m going to guess that, on some level, this is a fight over recouping an investment. Which is kind of sad in and of itself.

As you read the Star article further, you get the sense that this conflict didn’t just start when the kids were cut from the team.

Both complaints cite that coaches Guglielmi and Posca were suspended for a year by the GTHL for tampering on May 20, 2009 and therefore, the parents claim the men were not legitimately able to advertise themselves as coaches for 2010-2011 season, run the tryouts in April and ultimately cut their 15-year-old sons.

“They terminated my son and the GTHL supported that ‘illegal authority’,” Vito Valela told the Star.

“It wasn’t just that they (coaches) were under suspension,” Longo said. “It was the way they cut them and the method they used.”

However, GTHL executive director Scott Oakman confirmed although the coaches were under suspension, the rules permit any player or team official whose suspensions run past the conclusion of games played in a season to participate in tryouts .

The article doesn’t explain what sort of “tampering” led to a year-long suspension. But by the end of the story, you get the sense that this isn’t about bad, petulant parents who can’t take their sons’ pro dreams are over.

Well, it is about them. But it also is about youth sports politics gone so bad, you find it hard to root for anyone involved in this lawsuit.

Written by rkcookjr

June 29, 2010 at 1:57 am

Is cheerleading a sport?

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TOKYO - AUGUST 24:  Members of the Nippon Spor...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

“Is cheerleading a sport?” isn’t some sort of semantic question, like “is bowling a sport,” “is auto racing a sport,” or “is challenge pissing a sport.” (The link is NSFW language, but it’s not what you think. Or hope, if you’re R. Kelly.)

“Is cheerleading a sport” is a question that will be answered in a courtroom, and it could have an effect on how boys and girls are counted when it comes to Title IX, the federal law guaranteeing equal access by gender for any student in any school that receives federal money.

A trial started Mon., June 21 against Quinnipiac University (the Fighting Pollsters!) of Hamden, Conn., which is being sued by six women’s volleyball players over the school’s dropping their program. The players contend the elimination, as part of budget cuts, violated Title IX federal guidelines. A judge has already sort-of agreed, granting a temporary injunction to keep women’s vollyeball alive at Quinnipiac and granted the lawsuit class-action status.

That’s all well and good. But more interesting is one way Quinnipiac sought to prove that its female athletic participation is in step with its 62-38 female-male ratio: by elevating competitive cheer, with its 40 female members, to the rank of “sport.” From the New Haven (Conn.) Register:

The trial could ultimately be a referendum on competitive cheer, the gymnastic-like sport that is neither recognized as a varsity sport by the NCAA nor listed as an emerging sport. Quinnipiac initially intended to replace the 11-member volleyball program with a much larger competitive cheer squad.

According to published reports, cost estimates for a roster of 40 in competitive cheer is approximately $50,000. The volleyball budget was over $70,000 for 11 players last year.

Competitive cheer has many of the qualities of gymnastics, yet to some, it’s just an extension of “sideline cheer,” which is commonly seen at collegiate sporting events.

Others see competitive cheer as a low-cost loophole used to inflate the proportionality of female athletes at a school.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which sets the guidelines for Title IX student participation does not have a specific ruling to allow or disallow competitive cheer, but in 2008 issued a “Dear Colleague letter” which provided clarifying information to help institutions determine which intercollegiate or interscholastic athletic activities can be counted for the purpose of Title IX compliance. The letter indicates that when OCR conducts an investigation to determine whether an institution provides equal athletic opportunities as required by Title IX regulations, OCR evaluates the opportunities provided by the institution on a case by case basis.

Quinnipiac is currently in an alliance called the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association which includes the universities of Maryland, Oregon, Baylor, Ohio State (club team), Fairmont State of West Virginia, Azusa Pacific of California and Fort Valley State of Georgia.

If this were a movie, there would be a climatic scene in which the competitive cheer team performs in court, and the judge, so moved, declares: “You ARE a sport after all!” And everybody hugs.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared cheerleading was a sport — and a contact sport at that, in that competitors were in physical contact with each other. (And given the high injury rates for competitive cheer, you’d be safer on the football field instead.) However, that ruling wasn’t for Title IX purposes. It was to disallow a cheerleader’s right to sue the partner who failed to catch her, as well as the school and its insurance company to pay for treating her injuries.

In some states, the high school athletic ruling body includes competitive cheer under its jurisdiction, although often it seems like it does so to pull the same kind of Title IX shenanigans in which Quinnipiac is accused of engaging. For example, in 2009 the Florida High School Athletic Association had plans to cut back every sport but football (which it declared was coed because three girls played) and competitive cheer. Those plans were beaten back by Title IX activists, among others. And Florida’s inclusion of competitive cheer also seemed similar to why catchers have to report with pitchers to spring training. Somebody’s gotta cheer for the football team, and somebody has to catch the ball.

As of this writing, the Quinnipiac trial is ongoing.

Carmel hazing update: 1998 revisited, and time to take off the tinfoil hat

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The other day I noted that at Carmel (Ind.) High School, center of criminal investigations into alleged violent and sexual crimes into two separate hazing incidents involving the boys basketball team, had a similar situation pop up in 1998: three senior swimmers accused of harassing, beating and sexually assaulting a freshman teammate in what may or may not have been a case of hazing. I also noted that I couldn’t find any record of what happened to the alleged victim’s lawsuit against the school district and the swimmers.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis got a hold of the court documents and found the boy’s attorney. (Thanks to the intrepid Your Kid’s Not Going Pro reader who tipped me.) Tonight (March 5) the station aired a report that while a bit over the top in linking the swimming incident to the basketball incident — hey, it was 12 years ago, and none of the administrators overseeing (or not) things then are not the ones overseeing things (or not) now — do provide some disturbing parallels into how these incidents happen, and get so out of control. Most disturbing, perhaps, to those who want to see Carmel’s basketball players, coaches and school administrators hanging in the courtyard at dawn is how the 1998 case ended up being resolved.

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Actually, the most direct parallel is with the three seniors being investigated for assaulting two freshman teammates Jan. 22 on a bus trip back from a game in Terre Haute, a 100-mile trip. Like in that case, the victim apparently never stepped forward for whatever reason (in the swimmer’s case, fear that no one would believe three well-liked teammates would do such a thing), and the apparent assaults came to light only when the victim was injured badly enough to go to the hospital, which reported the injuries to the state’s Child Protective Services division.

In each case, coaches and administrators initially appeared to either not believe the victim or failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. According to WISH-TV, the swimming coach told the freshman, when he complained, to tough it out, that a little “horseplay” was part of being a freshman. In the basketball case, Carmel principal John Williams went on television — WISH-TV, to be exact — to note that, even after a police report on the alleged assault was released, “I’m still pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what happened on that bus.” Depending on how the case develops, that sentence could be his career epitaph. (After all, the three seniors were suspended from school and the team for whatever happened on that bus.)

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However, Williams might be OK in the end. In the swimming case, then-coach Tony Young was charged with failing to report a crime — but those charges eventually were dismissed. The swimmers never faced criminal charges. The lawsuit against the school and the swimmers, filed in 2002, was settled for an undisclosed amount soon before trial was scheduled to begin, according to WISH-TV.

One incident in 1998 and another in 2010 do not a pattern of violent hazing behavior make. However, each case shows a common pattern in any school where such an incident emerges: victims are afraid to speak out, coaches don’t want to hear it, and administrators are either left in the dark, intentionally or by their own desire to not hear anything they will have to recite later in a deposition.

That’s why I’m calling for everyone across these Internets who are screaming cover-up to can it. Hazing cases are notoriously difficult to investigate, because you have a lot of potential witnesses, and you have a lot of people who don’t want to say what they’ve seen. (A reason cited as to why the prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected not to file criminal charges in a hazing case involving a high school cross country team.)

No doubt, the authorities in Carmel don’t want a bruise on the Indianapolis suburb’s well-polished image as a high-class, desirable place to live. But if no charges end up being filed, if no coach or administrator loses his or her job, it will be a testament to police and administrative incompetence and/or witnesses refusing to say exactly what they know.

On the other hand, those across these Internets, including Carmel’s own city attorney, who are screaming about how the mean ol’ media is attacking the Bestest City in the Universe and harassing poor, innocent high school kids also need to can it. Without the media attention, it’s doubtful there would be a police investigation in the first place. Maybe that’s what those screamers wanted. If there’s any “cover up,” it’s going to come from community pressure to get basketball players and other witnesses not to talk, not an orchestrated campaign by the police.

(Oh, by the way, Carmel lost at home tonight in its own sectional to neighboring Indianapolis ‘burb Westfield, so everybody’s season is over, not just that of the four seniors.)

Coach of bullies says he's being bullied

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Todd Fox is no longer wrestling coach at Willard High School in Ohio because three of his team members pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for hazing a freshman teammate, a polite way of describing an incident in which that wrestler’s pants were pulled down, his testicles fondled, his rectum the recipient of a finger, and all of it photographed. Even though he resigned last year, Fox remains a teacher, and he remains convinced that, gosh darn it, no one ever told him what was really going on, and gosh darn it, he had better sue the parents of the victim because they’re being assholes about it.

If Fox’s Nov. 30, 2009, lawsuit against the parents for allegedly harassing him and defaming him so he can’t get another coaching job wasn’t enough, Fox decided recently to send a prepared statement to the Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector to let the world know: he’s a victim of bullying.

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“Karma police, arrest this coach.”

From the Reflector:

“It is unfortunate that it has come to this, but I could not sit back and allow a continued attack on my character. I put my heart in soul into the students and community of Willard. I have put students, athletes and the school before my own family many times. I do not deserve to be bullied. I just want to do what I do best and that is trying to make a positive difference in the lives of students and student-athletes.”

Later in the story, the Reflector quoted Fox’s attorney saying that the coach had a “rift” with the freshman wrestler’s father, who had served as a volunteer coach at Willard before apparently putting, in Fox’s view, his figurative finger up the coach’s figurative rectum.

It may well be that the freshman wrestler’s father is a jerk. But the unfortunate facts for Fox is that a) he was coach when such a heinous “hazing” activity occurred, and b) no matter if the father was Wrestling Hitler, his son did not deserve what happened to him. Also, exactly why is Fox sending this email before his trial even begins? Don’t most lawyers advise you not to do stuff like that?

By the way, Fox isn’t the only ex-Willard athletic official involved in litigation. Former athletic director Michael Lillo, now the school district’s transportation, building and grounds director, is accused in a lawsuit of “baiting a certain black basketball player from Fostoria High School” after a Jan. 30, 2009, Willard-Fostoria game, and making abusive comments toward Fostoria players during it. Lillo vociferously denied the charges in an interview with the Reflector. The lawsuit filed by Fostoria coach Rick Renz is not against Lillo, but against Willard police and city for allegedly injuring him while restraining him and forcing him to the gym floor. Must have been one hell of a game.

Written by rkcookjr

February 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

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