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WILL JUDGE DISMISS HAZING LAWSUIT?

SHARE WILL JUDGE DISMISS HAZING LAWSUIT?

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson will most likely rule later this week whether to dismiss a civil-rights lawsuit filed by the parents of hazing victim Brian Seamons against his former principal, football coach and the Cache County School District.

The suit, filed in January, accuses school officials and the district of failing to act properly when Seamons, a junior quarterback at Sky View High School, was taped at the genitals and hogtied to a locker-room towel rack by fellow teammates after a football practice. The district canceled the football season but took no direct action against the individual perpetrators other than denying some citizenship credits.Seamons was then harassed, as many people felt the season wouldn't have been canceled if he hadn't complained about the hazing, according to the suit. Further, Seamons has been emotionally scarred and academically injured and his rights were violated when school officials could not guarantee his safety at the Smithfield high school, the suit says. Seamons now attends school in Emery County.

But defense attorneys who appeared before Benson Tuesday said the suit should be dismissed for lack of factual claims to support those accusations.

The suit says defendants violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which addresses equality, in their treatment of Seamons. Yet defense attorney Barbara Ochoa said the suit doesn't show Seamons was subjected to discrimination "that was sexually charged and aimed at him specifically because of his gender" - two necessary components of the claim. Nor can it be shown the discrimination was intentional, she added.

In addition, Ochoa said the Title IX claim can only be applied to entities that receive federal funding, thus excluding the individual defendants - Sky View Principal Myron Benson and Coach Doug Snow - from that accusation.

It also is not logical to think Seamons experienced what happened to him just because of his gender, she said.

However, Robert Wallace, an attorney representing Sherwin and Jane Seamons on behalf of Brian, said sexual harassment is a very important factor in the suit.

After Seamons spoke out after the hazing, many individuals responded with a "boys will be boys" notion, Wallace said. Seamons also had to apologize to the football team for making an issue of the incident.

"He (Seamons) didn't like the conduct, he didn't like being brought before the football team, he didn't like being told to take it like a man. And that's sexual harassment," Wallace said.

Instead of taking a stand against the hazing incident by punishing the handful of students involved, "the school district showed they (the perpetrators) didn't do anything wrong," he added.

"He (Seamons) then became the butt of all this additional harassment."

Dan Larsen, another defense attorney, said it is futile to hold school districts responsible for every incident of students attacking each other. He also said a claim that Seamons' procedural due process was violated should be dismissed.

For one, Larsen said, the principal and coach took no actions to remove Seamons from school; he chose to go elsewhere. Also, no constitutional rights were violated when the coach didn't allow Seamons to play after he reported the hazing, Larsen said.

The suit asks for an unspecified amount of general, special and punitive damages. Benson took arguments from both sides into advisement and said Tuesday he will make a ruling about whether to dismiss the suit as soon as he can.