Last week, LB readers expressed a wide range of opinion on whether a high school football coach in Kentucky should’ve been charged criminally for the heat-related death of his 15 year-old player.
On Friday, a day after the indictment of the Kentucky coach, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided a similar case, holding that three high school football coaches in Georgia were entitled to qualified immunity in a §1983 substantive due process claim brought by the parents of Tyler Davis, who died the morning after a practice session.
From the opinion:
In their complaint, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs allege the coaches . . . failed to provide enough water to keep Davis hydrated, ignored signs and Davis’s complaints that he was becoming dehydrated, subjected Davis to rigorous conditioning drills at the end of a two-hour practice, and failed to attend to Davis until after a team meeting, even though he had collapsed in the middle of the drills. . . . Although the workout was admittedly voluntary, Plaintiffs allege that if a student did not perform all the exercises and activities in the workout, he would be subject to further discipline from the coaches, such as additional drills, exclusion from tryouts, or demotion to the junior varsity team.
After running through several graphic examples of student injuries, the court holds that, since Davis voluntarily participated in the practice, no custodial relationship existed between himself and the
school. “In this school setting case,” the court continues, “the complaint’s allegations of deliberate indifference, without more, do not rise to the conscience-shocking level required for a constitutional violation. While the circumstances of this case are truly unfortunate, Plaintiffs’ claims are properly confined to the realm of torts.”