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Advice to Help with Abusive Coaches

Question:

Many of the parents at our local high school are worried about the coaches, their abusive behavior towards the athletes and their attitudes towards the athlete's parents. For example, some of the coaches use derogatory terms when referring to some of the student athletes that do not run as fast as the other athletes. In addition, at least one coach as been heard referring to the parents of the athletes as "crybabies" when the parents complain about their coaching styles. The abuse has also turned physical, with the coaches often hitting the athletes on the arm during games. Although many parents are concerned about the abusive coaches, they are not sure what to do about the situation.

Answer:

One of the best pieces of advice to take is to get as many parents in the community involved as possible. As history as taught us, the more voices a cause has, the more effective it can be.

Every school district in the country has set rules that govern the conduct of all teachers and staff at every school. You should get a copy of these rules and go through them carefully, highlighting any provisions that you feel the coach or coaches have violated. You can also give highlighted copies to the abusive coaches in question.

In addition, you can take some of these steps:

  • In keeping with the theory that the more voices behind a movement the better, go to the school principal and ask him to set up a public forum where parents can come and tell the coach(es) their issues with their coaching style.
  • If the forum fails, go to the Superintendent of Schools for your school district and tell him or her of your concerns and complaints about the abusive coaches.
  • Go to the school board meetings with a list of complaints about the abusive coaches.
  • Send a complaint to the State Board of Education.
  • Get a story about the abusive coaches into the local newspaper.

Lastly, if nothing else has worked and no one has paid attention to the problem, you can file a civil lawsuit against the coach, alleging assault and battery as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. Because this lawsuit may be tricky to win, you will probably not want to represent yourself and should find an experienced attorney.

In order to win your case for civil assault, you will need to prove two elements:

  • That the abusive coach acted in a way that was intended to cause a harmful or offensive contact, and
  • That the student/athlete reasonably believed that he or she was about to be touched in a harmful or offensive way.

In order to successfully prove a claim for battery, you will need to show four elements:

  • That the abusive coach touched the student/athlete with the intent to harm or offend,
  • That the student/athlete did not agree to be touched by the abusive coach,
  • That the student/athlete was offended or harmed by the touching, and
  • That a reasonable person in the student/athlete's position would have been offended or harmed by the touching.

Lastly, in order to successful prove a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, you will need demonstrate four elements of the claim:

  • That the abusive coach acted intentionally or recklessly,
  • That the abusive coach's actions were extreme and outrageous,
  • That the abusive coach's actions were the sole cause of the emotional distress, and
  • That the student/athlete suffers from severe emotional distress because of the way the abusive coach acted.
Next Steps
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