Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=111659
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 1:54:39 PM CST
A Marshall High School basketball coach’s 2007 lawsuit against the Chicago Public Schools and two Marshall administrators may be resolved by the end of the month.
Lamont Bryant was fired from his job as boys' basketball coach at Marshall in October 2007 and filed a lawsuit later that month. He recently told the Chicago Tribune he was fired after blowing the whistle on corporal punishment within the school's basketball program. His lawsuit doesn't explicitly state that allegation.
A judge dismissed four claims in Bryant’s lawsuit last year, and a trial on the remaining three was set to begin on Tuesday. But according to Bryant’s attorney, Jim Sotos, the parties reached a tentative settlement earlier this month.
“The [Chicago Public School] board has to vote on the settlement on January 28,” said Sotos. “And we’ll probably have something to say about it then.”
In his lawsuit, Bryant alleged civil rights and Title IX violations against the school, specifically naming Dorothy Gaters, who is Marshall’s athletic director as well as its girls’ basketball coach.
Gaters publicly discussed the issues behind Bryant’s firing in mid-October 2007, before he filed his lawsuit. According to court documents, these included “threatening players…failing to prohibit a person with three felony convictions and seven arrests for possession and distribution of drugs from serving as a volunteer assistant coach…and knowingly playing ineligible players.”
Gaters and Chicago Public Schools officials are currently tight-lipped about Bryant's firing, declining to comment about “pending litigation.” No one was willing to comment publicly on whether the settlement was prompted by Bryant's recent claims about whistle-blowing.
Complaints about corporal punishment, specifically paddling, of Marshall student athletes arose last year. They were directed against Courtney Hargrays, an assistant coach who took over Bryant's job last season. Hargrays, who was suspended in August, led Marshall's boys' basketball team to a state championship victory last year. He made headlines last month when he and his supporters spoke at a school board meeting against his dismissal. Several Chicago Public School coaches are under similar investigation.
“The recommendation from the CEO [Arne Duncan’s] office was that [Hargrays] should be terminated,” said Chicago Public Schools Communications Officer Frank Shuftan. The school board still intends to give Hargrays due process, said Shutfan, by holding a disciplinary hearing, though no date has yet been set.
Hargrays was not involved with coaching this year’s team, said Shuftan, since “the allegations were raised prior to the beginning of practice.” According to Gaters, Henry Cotton, an assistant coach, took over as head coach following Hargray’s suspension. Cotton is the third head coach in three years for Marshall's boys’ basketball team. Hargrays was at the helm only one season before being suspended.
In addition to the paddling case at Marshall, school board officials said they are actively investigating five other coaches throughout the school system. Similar allegations against security officers at Phillips High School were turned over to the Chicago Police Department.
Chicago Public School administrators say some cases have been turned over to the Illiniois Department of Children and Family Services as well. A spokesman for that organization said, “The real action on this story is: What’s the school system doing?”