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UTAH COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING HAZING CASE, APPEALS PANEL RULES

The U.S. District Court in Utah erred by dismissing the case of a high school student who sued a school district after his football teammates taped him naked to a towel rack, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The appeals court ruled that the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City should have addressed Brian Seamons' claims that his First Amendment right to free speech was violated by Cache County School District officials.The district court did not rule on the free-speech issue because it had granted qualified immunity to the defendants, saying they did not "know or reasonably should have known that the action (they) took within (their) sphere of official responsibility could violate (Brian's) constitutional rights."

The 10th Circuit Court disagreed and reversed the lower court's dismissal of Seamons' freedom of speech claim. The issue was sent back to the district court, which correctly dismissed all other claims by Seamons, the appeals court ruled.

Seamons' claims stem from an Oct. 11, 1993, incident in which he was forcibly restrained by five football teammates as he exited a locker room shower at Sky View High School. Seamons was then bound naked to a towel rack with adhesive tape.

Seamons reported the incident to school administrators and other authorities, including his coach, Douglas Snow, who later told Seamons he had betrayed the team with his actions.

When Snow brought Seamons in front of the team to apologize, Seamons refused and was dismissed from the team. None of the five players that allegedly assaulted Seamons was suspended from the team, but the team later was forced by district officials to withdraw from the state playoffs.