Coach Says Principal's Meddling Was a Crime
DALLAS (CN) - A Texas high school basketball coach was fired for resisting pressure to play the principal's son illegally, he claims in a whistleblower lawsuit.
Stanford Hill sued the Dallas Independent School District and Skyline High School principal Harold Wright in Dallas County Court on Wednesday morning. Hill coached the varsity men's basketball team at Skyline from the 2009-2010 season to 2012-2013 season, reaching the playoffs each year. Wright's son enrolled at Skyline during the 2010-2011 season.
"Mr. Wright consistently pressured Coach Hill to play Wright's son over more deserving players," the complaint states. "As a consequence of Coach Hill's refusal to conspire with Wright to favor Wright's son at the expense of other players, Coach Hill was relieved of his coaching responsibilities and was transferred to a school that does not have a basketball program."
Hill claims he was retaliated against for refusing to participate in a crime.
He says that under state law, educators cannot "use coercive means" to influence other educators.
"Under the Texas Penal Code, a state employee commits an offense if he (1) violates a law relating to the public service's office or employment; or (2) misuses government personnel," the complaint states.
"The Texas Supreme Court, in Sabine Pilot Srvc., Inc. v. Hauck, has held that terminating or adversely impacting an employee for refusing to commit an illegal act is a violation of law.
"The DISD terminated Coach Hill as a coach for refusing to participate in a crime."
In September 2013, Hill told ABC News affiliate WFAA that Wright and his wife were the only parents to text him regarding their son's playing time. Hill said that after he filed a grievance for his termination, he was shocked to learn Wright would be his hearing examiner. Hill said the texts were not considered at all during the grievance process.
"I felt like I had to go out and meet with his wife because he's the principal, and I felt like if I didn't go out and meet with his wife at that particular time then I would probably lose my job the next day," Hill told WFAA.
Hill has since been transferred to another school that does not have a basketball program. He told WFAA that athletic department officials warned him that if he files another grievance against a principal, he will never be considered for a coaching job in the school district again.
DISD officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Hill seeks actual and punitive damages for tortious interference and violations of the Texas Administrative Code. He is represented by Brian Sanford with Sanford Bethune in Richardson.