Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chisholm v. St. Marys City School District Board of Education

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 7, 2020

Dane Chisholm (19-3034) and Reid Linninger (19-3100), former student-athletes of St. Marys City Schools, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
St. Marys City School District Board of Education, Shawn Brown, James Hollman, and Paul Douglas Frye, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: October 17, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Toledo. Nos. 3:16-cv-02849; 3:16-cv-02853-James G. Carr, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Mark A. Weiker, ALBEIT WEIKER, LLP, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellants.

          Tabitha Justice, SUBASHI, WILDERMUTH & JUSTICE, Dayton, Ohio, for Appellees St. Marys, Shawn Brown, and James Hollman. William V. Beach, ROBISON, CURPHEY & O'CONNELL, LLC, Toledo, Ohio, for Appellee Paul Douglas Frye.

         ON BRIEF:

          Mark A. Weiker, ALBEIT WEIKER, LLP, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellants.

          Tabitha Justice, Brian L. Wildermuth, SUBASHI, WILDERMUTH & JUSTICE, Dayton, Ohio, for Appellees St. Marys, Shawn Brown, and James Hollman. William V. Beach, Amy J. Luck, ROBISON, CURPHEY & O'CONNELL, LLC, Toledo, Ohio, for Appellee Paul Douglas Frye.

          Before: ROGERS, WHITE, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          CHAD A. READLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Playing football is not for the fainthearted. During games, players risk physical injury in the name of beating an opponent. Even at practice, players put their physical wellbeing at risk to compete for starting positions and to gain an edge for an upcoming game.

         These competitive desires are often spurred on by a team's coach. As much as in any sport, football coaches push their players to achieve, often in the face of adversity. Through their words and actions, many coaches push quite hard. Sometimes, their efforts can cross lines of decency. Can they also cross legal lines drawn by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act?

         All of this sets the backdrop for today's contest, one fought not on the field, but in the courtroom. We are asked to decide whether federal or state law limits the types of verbal motivational tactics a high school football coach may employ. In separate suits below, two former players for the St. Marys (Ohio) Memorial High School Football Team brought claims for federal Title IX violations and state-law intentional infliction of emotional distress against their coach, Defendant Doug Frye. The players claim that Frye harassed them by using numerous derogatory terms-most notably, the term "pussy"-with the intent to insult (and presumably to motivate) the two in front of their teammates. Plaintiffs also sued the St. Marys school board, superintendent, and athletic director for failing to address Frye's conduct. In both suits, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. Plaintiffs now bring separate appeals, which we have consolidated for review.

         As a matter of decency, Frye's conduct was distasteful, and no doubt offensive to many. But as a matter of law, his conduct did not constitute sex-based discrimination, in violation of Title IX, nor was it conduct intolerable in a civilized society, in violation of Ohio tort law. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Baseball may forever be considered "America's pastime"-Levi Stahl, When and how baseball became America's Pastime, The Chicago Blog (Oct. 4, 2018), https://pressblog.uchicago.edu/2018/10/04/when-and-how-baseball-became-americas-pastime-an-interview-with-david-rapp.html-but by most every measure, football has become the nation's most popular team sport. Of America's professional sporting leagues, the National Football League enjoys the highest viewer ratings, with its annual championship game, the "Super Bowl," among any year's most viewed television programs of any kind. By total attendance figures, college football surpasses its professional counterpart, with fans filling over 100 collegiate stadiums every fall Saturday. High school football similarly captures the interest of fans in communities across the nation, typically on Friday nights, as a precursor to collegiate football Saturdays and professional football Sundays.

         That widespread adulation informs at least two underlying features of today's case. First, football's popularity can be attributed in part to the sport's physical nature. Dating back to the violent gladiator games of Ancient Rome, and likely much earlier, spectators have long enjoyed tests of strength, speed, and aggression, even when the participants risk their health and wellbeing. More than any other modern team sport, football highlights these same traits- strength, speed, and aggression. It draws upon the combative nature of its participants and their coaches, with the sport enjoying a competitive, confrontational, and motivational foundation not seen in other team activities.

         Second, football's popularity feeds a strong desire for team success. At the professional and collegiate levels, on-field success translates directly into notoriety for teams, players, and coaches, and significant revenue for the respective professional organization or university. Even in the more localized high school setting, community pride and year-long bragging rights are at stake when one's team takes the field. Facing this pressure to succeed, football teams are sometimes willing to take chances on troubled yet talented players, decisions that may otherwise be difficult to rationalize. And the same can be said of coaches, whose sometimes crude or outlandish antics are tolerated in favor of on-the-field success. Today's case reflects one such example.

         A. Frye Has A Turbulent Background As A High School Football Coach.

         Doug Frye has been coaching high school football in northern Ohio for a quarter-century. Allegations that Frye harassed players under his watch are nearly as old. The first came in 1995. While coaching at Bucyrus City Schools, Frye was given a written reprimand for "using unacceptable obscene language" and "becoming physical with one of the players."

         That conduct repeated itself when Frye took a coaching position at St. Marys City Schools, starting in 1998. Just a year into the job, Frye was rebuked in writing by members of his coaching staff for subjecting his players to degrading language and pushing them to play through injuries. One of those coaching colleagues was James Hollman, then an assistant football coach, now the athletic director of St. Marys City Schools.

         Frye left his position at St. Marys in the spring of 2010. That fall, he took a position as head high school football coach in neighboring Wapakoneta. And once again, Frye's behavior became the source of player grievances. In 2012, Frye was accused of harassing Wapakoneta players. Several students even went so far as to file a criminal complaint against Frye. These allegations were supported by a recording of Frye swearing repeatedly and calling his players "pussies," among other derogatory names.

         An investigation by the Ohio Department of Education, or "ODE," ensued. That investigation resulted in ODE and Frye entering into a consent agreement. Under the agreement, Frye retained his teaching license and coaching permit. But Frye's employer, for two years, was required to submit quarterly reports to ODE addressing Frye's behavior and treatment of students. Wapakoneta then renewed Frye's position as head coach for the 2013 season. But following the season, Frye voluntarily resigned.

         B. Frye Returns To St. Marys And Becomes Plaintiffs' Coach.

         As events unfolded in Wapakoneta, ten miles away at St. Marys Memorial High School, Plaintiffs Dane Chisholm and Reid Lininger began their high school football careers. Both players were highly involved in the school football program. Chisholm played on the offensive and defensive lines for the varsity team while Lininger was the starting quarterback for the junior varsity team.

         During Plaintiffs' early years, the team struggled. Over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the team went winless, posting a record of 0-20. And by and large, these games were not close. During those two seasons, St. Marys was outscored by a collective margin of nearly 3:1.

         On the heels of that futility, the St. Marys School Board decided to replace the head coach. To fill the position, the Board turned to Frye, who was well known to St. Marys from his prior coaching tenure at the school and reputation for running a winning program. With full knowledge of Frye's history of disciplinary incidents, superintendent Shawn Brown signed off on Frye's rehiring due to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.