ST. MARYS — A federal lawsuit was filed in Toledo against various officials of the St. Marys City School District on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed by five former football players and two parents, names the St. Marys school board, Superintendent Shawn Brown, Athletic Director James Hollman, head football Coach Doug Frye and assistant football Coach Bo Frye as defendants in the case.
Plaintiffs in the case include Joshua Chisholm and David Lininger, parents of former players. Other plaintiffs are former players Levi Ginter, Jase Green, Chance Hicks, Dane Chisholm, and Lininger on behalf of a minor identified as R.L.
An overview of the complaint said the players named as plaintiffs were talented and accomplished, but were still subjected to regular, repeated and pervasive harassment, intimidation, bullying and humiliation under Doug and Bo Frye, who are also father and son. 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.
Ten counts are named in the filing, each naming all or some of the the defendants. A copy of the filing and exhibits can be found online at LimaOhio.com.
The plaintiffs were asking compensatory and punitive damages, a requirement that the school board adopt harassment policies, procedures and practices commensurate with guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, an award for reimbursement of court costs and attorney fees and an order for any other relief that the court deems appropriate.
Included with the lawsuit was a statement from Chance Hicks. Hicks said in February 2014 he had received surgery from a left shoulder injury. He was in a sling for six weeks and under a heavy lifting ban for eight weeks. Hicks was under doctor orders to not have full contact practice until right up before the first game.
While still under no contact orders, Hicks said the arm was reinjured during a drill in June 2014. Hicks said Doug Frye said he was faking the injury to get out of practice. He was forced to run for 20 minutes during the practice with the injured shoulder, according to the statement. Hicks was then also forced to run sprints after the practice, despite an assistant coach’s request that Hicks shouldn’t participate.
After being put back in an arm sling, Hicks said he missed practice one day because of being up all night from the pain. He was notified by a team member later that day that his locker had been cleared out and that he was off the team.
The lawsuit included allegations of name-calling, encouragement of fighting between players, contact without proper gear, encouragement of playing with injuries, being told that “concussions don’t exist” and players being directed not to say a word about a player having a seizure during practice and that player not getting proper treatment.
Several other claims are outlined in the filing.
When contacted, Doug Frye said he would call back in 10 minutes but did not call back and was unable to be reached.
Superintendent Shawn Brown issued the following statement:
“The district believes the allegations set forth in the complaint are completely without merit and looks forward to continuing to provide its students and student-athletes with a quality education, in a safe environment. The district does not intend to comment further on the matter because of its policy of not commenting on pending litigation.”
Board president Karl Dammeyer had no comment other than referring to Brown’s released statement.
A plaintiff in the case referred questions to attorney Mark Weiker out of Columbus. Weiker said the complaint “spoke for itself” and did not want to comment further. An attorney who was representing Doug Frye earlier, Craig Gottschalk, was unable to be reached for comment.
The school hired an independent investigator, Ted Knapke, to investigate some of the claims in December. Knapke summarized in 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 stated 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 at Twitter @LanceMihm.