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Monday, October 30, 2006
Can parents be liable for coach-bashing?

A pending case in the Utah Supreme Court will address the status of public high school coaches under defamation law. According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
The case pits Michael O'Connor, who coached the Lehi High School girls' basketball team for three years, against parents who alleged he was demoralizing team members by berating them and favoring one player over the others.

At the end of the 2003-04 season, tensions had risen so much that relatives of some of the players wrote letters outlining their concerns and a handful of them spoke at an Alpine School District Board meeting about their frustrations. A few months later, in September 2004, the Lehi High principal dismissed O'Connor as head coach of the team.
A lower court judged dismissed O'Connor's case on the grounds that he was a public official and therefore had to show actual malice to recover for defamation (which he failed to do). The parents' complaints about O'Connor
began piling up over alleged abusive comments, a suspected recruitment irregularity and possible mishandling of money raised by players. Particularly troublesome to many of the parents was O'Connor's perceived favoritism toward Michelle Harrison, a 6-foot-2 forward considered one of the top players in Utah. . . . [T]he parents were . . . upset by the way the coach yelled at their daughters and allegedly failed to give them their share of playing time.
Even if O'Connor wins his appeal and is found to not be a public official, his damages might be slight. He has not been terminated from his employment as teacher, nor as golf coach. HT to Ben Maller.


This news is very interesting. How strong was the berating of the coach? For example, in Russia a case may be run against coach or teacher if he/she humiliates CHILDREN (till 18) and brings them physical damage. I'm not sure that it's possible to sue if he/she just shouts. It seems that such situation more likely to be usual.
If team or school are not satisfied with coach's work, they may just discharge this coach.

Blogger Olga B. -- 11/01/2006 3:03 AM  

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