A new lawsuit in Louisiana claims that the coaches of perennial contender Warren Easton High School severely battered a student athlete with a paddle.
As reported by The Lens New Orleans, a Warren Easton football mother and her son have filed a lawsuit claiming that the school’s four football coaches subjected the freshman to “at least eight separate incidents of corporal punishment” with a paddle the coaches called “Big Freedia.”
For his part, the president of Warren Easton’s charter board, took a more balance response:
The incidents caused the boy “great physical, emotional and mental distress” and his grades suffered, the lawsuit says. The boy eventually quit the team and transferred to another school using a “hardship transfer.” The district only allows students to transfer mid-way through the school year if they can prove a hardship, such as a health or safety concern.
Intriguingly, the defense against the lawsuit appears to be that Warren Easton officials, the New Orleans Police Department and the Orleans Parish School Board all insist the incident never took place, or at least they could uncover no proof that it did.
“Our investigation did not uncover any evidence of the alleged event,” David Garland, president of Warren Easton’s governing charter board, told The Lens. “Our investigation did not uncover any evidence of the alleged event.”
Meanwhile, the account of the alleged events from the mother and athlete in question, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe and Jane Doe, includes disturbing allegations of abuse by paddling and an implement named to inspire, or in honor of, open homophobia.
Here’s more from The Lens:
Two times, the boy was pulled out of class and paddled by a coach, the lawsuit states, once for talking with teammates and another time for using his cell phone during class. The lawsuit also states he was paddled once for wearing an untucked shirt.
The four coaches “referred to the paddle as “Big Freedia,’ ” the lawsuit alleges. Because Big Freedia is a “well-known gay male musician” the suit alleges that the nickname for the paddle “inappropriately sexualized their respective batteries” of the boy. The coaches’ “homophobic actions intendend to humiliate, demean and marginalize” the boy, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, the boy quit the team in October when he was ordered to the locker room to be paddled and refused. In response, a coach told him to “get the f-ck out,” the suit says. That’s the day his mom learned of the alleged incidents, reporting them to the school, district and police.
Where the lawsuit goes from here remains to be seen. Given the stark differences in accounts between the alleged victims and defendants, any eventual trial (if the case reaches that point) could present a fascinating series of conflicting testimonies.