Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Video Evidence Means Schools Cannot Hide Student Abuse-- Video Of Coach Pulling My Client Aggressively By Hair Opens Door To Action

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

One of the top stories in my area (Sacramento, California) and apparently around the globe, is that of the female student whose coach attempted to lift her out of the water by her hair at a swim meet.  The student was thereafter told that she was kicked off the swim team and stripped of her swim badges, all because she and another student swam half of their portion of a freestyle swim race.  The word "overkill" seems in order.

This incident has now gone global with internet access to the media.  The man involved, Geoff Capell, has now reportedly quit his position as assistant swim coach and the head swim coach (his daughter) remains.  This is BIG news and such actions can cause BIG problems for school districts.

Meanwhile, despite the situation, when I heard from the family, they were getting nowhere as far as getting the student, and her teammate who was also kicked off, back on the team.  Luckily, our paths crossed and after my office got involved both girls were promptly reinstated and will be awarded their badges.  This is great news.  There is more to do, but I will leave that alone for now.

This matter illuminates a change in evidence in our society by which individuals and school officials may be held accountable- video evidence.  Because of the rise in phone video cameras and other devices allowing  people to record everything around us, conduct which previously would have been ignored or brushed off becomes international news overnight.  No longer can school officials hide from accusations which are a matter of "personal opinion," as the camera does not lie.  This is good for students who may be inappropriately touched or even assaulted by school officials.  If any of you remember Rodney King, he would not be THE Rodney King now were video cameras not rolling the day he was beaten by police officers.

Years ago, if a parent came to my office and said "the coach pulled my hair violently," I might have told them to file a personnel complaint and hoped for an accumulation of incidents over time to get rid of the coach.  Although parent complaints do help parents to solve problems, a personnel complaint alone in no way has the IMPACT that video can have.  Just look at the hair pulling by the former coach.  If the student weighed 120 pounds, that is how much weight was conceivably applied to her head and hair, let alone the yank by the coach which came as a shock to the student.  It was more painful then it looked.  Why do adults have to act SO poorly?!  

Luckily for my client, there is video involved that is now everywhere you look ("viral" as my husband likes to say) and which clearly shows the overstepping of boundaries in this matter. Without it, my client might still be off the team based on her perception of the tug versus the former coach's perception of the tug, as perception is subjective and can result in a never-ending "he said she said" feud.  Video, on the other hand, is objective and undeniable, and, unless tampered with, does not lie.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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