Oct 18, 2012Father Sues School District About Alleged Discrimination Against Daughter By Coach
Kansas City Star, Sam McDowell
The father of a high school girls basketball player sued the Blue Springs School District last week in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging his daughter was the subject of racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation by her coaches.
According to a petition filed by Fred Lane, former Blue Springs South basketball coach Fawna Harrison used the Internet to make a video that superimposed an orangutan’s face over the face of Cloé Lane, who is black, before sharing the video with others at the school.
Cloé Lane, now a sophomore at Blue Springs South, played varsity basketball for Harrison as a freshman in 2011.
The school district responded Wednesday by saying its investigation found no evidence of racial discrimination. The district also questioned the timing of Lane’s complaints, which were made after Lane was benched during a varsity basketball game and three months after the video incident occurred, district activities director Mark Bubalo said.
Harrison, who is white, told The Star she made the video but said race was not the motivation behind it. She resigned from her coaching position in the spring after eight years with Blue Springs South and 27 years of coaching high school basketball.
Harrison said she received an email Oct. 17, 2011, that included a party invitation using the application Monk-e-Mail. A group of players, including Lane, saw the email, Harrison said, at which point they asked Harrison to use their photos in the application.
Harrison said she superimposed several players’ faces — black and white — onto monkeys’ bodies.
“We laughed about it, said Harrison, who added that Lane asked her to forward it to other coaches. It had nothing to do with race. That didn’t even enter my mind when I did it.”
The Lanes’ lawyer, Gene Graham, said he is “looking forward to a jury seeing this video.” He declined further comment.
The Lanes are seeking punitive damages for racial discrimination and harassment, according to the petition, which also accuses the Blue Springs South coaching staff of mistreating Cloe during a float trip in June 2011.
“Cloé Lane was swept off her feet, went under water multiple times and screamed for help, according to the complaint, which also alleges Cloé informed Harrison before the trip she did not know how to swim. Coach Harrison and (assistant coach Rachel) Donaldson did nothing to assist Cloé Lane.”
Harrison said the water was “about knee-deep.” She continued: “Nobody’s life was in danger. Nobody was anywhere near drowning.”
Bubalo said Fred Lane brought both incidents to his attention during a meeting “sometime in late January.” After speaking with parents, teachers, players and other students, Bubalo said he found no evidence of racial discrimination or harassment.
“I think it’s really interesting that they’re complaining about an incident in late June and one in October, Bubalo said.
In January 2011, Harrison sat Cloé — a regular starter — for the first half of a game against Blue Springs, citing Cloé’s late arrival to a practice. The petition also alleges Harrison blamed a loss on Cloé in front of her teammates and, in another incident, asked players if they thought Cloé was a drama queen” for complaining about pain in her knee.