ST. MARYS — In separate filings, attorneys representing St. Marys City School District officials have denied any wrongdoing in answers to a lawsuit filed in federal court by five former football players and two parents.
Attorney Tabitha Justice of Subashi & Wildermuth in Dayton filed an answer on Monday listing 36 defenses to charges filed against the St. Marys Board of Education, former Superintendent Shawn Brown and Athletic Director James Hollman. The answer denies all allegations of wrongdoing and asks for a trial by jury on the issue.
Attorney Thomas Antonini of Robinson, Curphey & O’Connell in Toledo also filed Monday an answer to claims against St. Marys head football coach Doug Frye and his son Bo Frye, who is also a member of the coaching staff. The filing lists 27 defenses and also denies all allegations.
Both filings ask for the complaints to be dismissed at plaintiffs’ costs.
The lawsuit was filed June 29 by five former St. Marys football players and two parents.
Plaintiffs in the case are Joshua Chisholm and David Lininger, parents of former players, and former players Levi Ginter, Jase Green, Chance Hicks, Dane Chisholm, and Lininger on behalf of a minor identified as R.L.
The lawsuit claims that players were subjected to regular, repeated and pervasive harassment, intimidation, bullying and humiliation under Doug and Bo Frye. Claims include the use of derogatory and demeaning terms, players being pressured to play with injuries, players being instructed that “what happens in football stays in football,” and players being encouraged to disassociate themselves from those who outwardly resisted the negative treatment by the coaches.
Justice made the following statement via email concerning the case:
“With respect to the Chisholm lawsuit, our clients strongly deny any liability,” Justice wrote Tuesday in an email. “As is often the case in the early stages of litigation, the picture Plaintiffs attempt to paint in their complaint is one-sided, incomplete, and inaccurate. We look forward to the opportunity to present the real story and to vindicate our clients’ conduct.”
Mark Weiker of Albeit Weiker in Columbus, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he did not have a comment on the filing. Antonini could not be reached for comment Tuesday but a message was left with his firm.
The school hired an independent investigator, Ted Knapke, to investigate some of the claims in December. Knapke summarized his findings released in January that “the complaints included in the three letters depict a very different program and culture than the patterns that emerge from the answers and the comments given by coaches and the other eight players in response to issues centered in the allegations.”
Weiker said after the report was released that “it is a real stretch for the school to call this an investigation.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.