The family of a high school basketball player is suing several Ohio school district officials, claiming the athlete was subjected to harassment once he was outed as gay.
As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, the suit centers on the alleged actions of former Fairless High School athletic director Kevin Bille, whose contract as boys' basketball coach was not renewed in April. Allegedly the coach once told the player, whose identification is being withheld, that he had the potential to play college basketball. However, after the boy's sexual identity was made known during a Spanish class in the fall of 2017, the harassment began.
According to the lawsuit, assigned earlier this month to a U.S. District Court judge in Cleveland, Bille:
- Significantly reduced the teen’s playing time and told him he was worried students from the student section would learn he is gay and start yelling.
- Singled out the teen by giving him punitive workouts.
- Told the teen during team prayers he didn’t have to pray because he knew the teen “hates Jesus.”
- Called the teen weak and required the teen to feel the coach’s arm muscles.
- Failed to introduce at least one prospective college recruiter to the teen even though the recruiter had expressed interest.
- Gave the teen a “certificate of participation” instead of a varsity letter even though a team manager who had played zero minutes of basketball during the season received a varsity letter.
Other instances of harassment highlighted in the lawsuit include:
- The assistant high school principal telling the teen he chose to be bullied because he chose to be gay.
- The Fairless principal telling him to relay certain messages to his “community” about bathroom use and whether the term “gay bucks” is offensive.
- A faculty member denying him admission to the National Honor Society despite the teen meeting the objective requirements for admission.
- The school failing to make reasonable accommodations when other male students did not want to room with the teen during the senior class trip to New York, causing the teen to miss the trip that he helped plan as a class officer.
- The school failing to investigate when other students made derogatory remarks toward him based on his perceived sexual orientation, even when video evidence was available.
The lawsuit states the teen and his parents unsuccessfully tried to discuss the harassment and discrimination with the superintendent and school board members before seeking court action. The suit names the superintendent, the school board president, the high school principal and assistant principal, several faculty members, and Bille.
The family is seeking an unspecified amount of money and other relief for the teen’s emotional distress and psychological damage, which include depression, an inability to concentrate on studies and debilitating fear, despair, anger, humiliation and anxiety. They say the damage was caused by harassment the district and its representatives failed to prevent or address in violation of the teen’s right to equal protection of the law on the basis of sex as provided under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.