Friday, July 15, 2005

Fourth Circuit denies qualified immunity to wrestling coach

In Meeker v. Edmundson, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that a public high school wrestling coach was not entitled to qualified immunity from a claim that he instituted and encouraged repeated beatings of a student by other members of the team.

According to the Complaint, Coach Edmundson employed the beatings as "his sole means of discipline" and as a way to force an unwanted member to quit the team, which had a purported no-cut policy. Edmundson allegedly told Meeker that the beatings would continue until Meeker "toughened up and stopped crying," and the coach prevented disclosure of the abuse by "intimidation and retaliation, including more . . . severe beatings."

The panel concluded that no a reasonable school official could have believed the challenged conduct to be lawful, in light of clearly established law at the time of the beatings; therefore, no qualified immunity for the coach.

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