Suit claims Mississippi high school officials condoned hazing on school’s baseball team

According to the Sun Herald, the parents of a former Picayune Memorial High School baseball player have filed suit alleging members of the team participated in a hazing ritual that left their son hospitalized after he was held from behind and punched in the chest. The suit claims that for at least two years, older baseball players have routinely singled out younger, smaller players and punched them “violently in the chest” before games.

The lawsuit was filed by Jeffrey Dixon Sr. and Amy Dixon, on behalf of their son, Jeffrey Dixon Jr.  According to suit,  Dixon Jr. suffered a seizure and was hospitalized after an alleged hazing ritual before a game in April 2011. The suit names Picayune School District (PSD), baseball coach Cayne Stockstill, three team members identified only with initials and 10 John Does. Although the suit was originally filed in  a Mississippi state court, PSD had the case removed to federal district court.

The suit charges that rather than concentrating on the injured player before he was taken to a hospital, the coach “instead consoled his starting pitcher … who had been the perpetrator of the vicious assault.” The pitcher went on to play for the team in the remaining games, but the Dixons’ suit says their son finished the school year at home and then changed schools because of the “hostile environment.”

The suit claims gross negligence, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, conspiracy, civil rights violations and negligent supervision. It seeks unspecified damages. The civil rights allegation claims the coach and the school district failed to use their positions of authority to stop ongoing abuse. “Defendants Cayne Stockstill and Picayune School District intentionally and willfully refused to take action to prevent ongoing hazing conduct at high school baseball games, despite having actual knowledge of a pattern of such hazing conduct,” the lawsuit said.

Source: Sun Herald, 1/5/12, By Holbrook Mohr (Associated Press)

[Editor's Note: Hazing, like bullying and harassment, has increasingly drawn the attention of both state and local school officials.  The death in November 2011 of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, widely reported as the result of hazing by fellow band members, has put the issue in the spotlight again. 

In January 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Boston Globe reporting that a state auditor’s office review had concluded that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) failed to monitor school districts’ compliance with the state’s anti-hazing laws, resulting in a checkered enforcement system across the state.

In November 2010, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Boston Globe reporting that a number of education and athletic associations had expressed support for Needham High School officials’ decision to suspend members of the school’s girls’ soccer team for allegedly hazing younger teammates.]

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