Cheerleading Coach to Face Amended Lawsuit

     (CN) – A cheerleader can amend claims that her coach disregarded her recent concussions and forced her to participate in dangerous stunts, a federal judge ruled.
     While participating in a stunt move on Aug. 23, 2010, Peters Township High School senior varsity cheerleader Alexandria Lavella suffered a concussion after being struck in the head by a flyer. Lavella was injured the same way two weeks later, when head cheerleading coach Chelsea Stockhausen had her fully participate in stunting practice.
     After Stockhausen allegedly failed to file a written report of the injury with the school’s athletic director, Lavella’s mother emailed the coach about her concern about the level of safety at practice and that her daughter was “not to stunt until the flyers are under control.”
     Although Stockhausen allegedly kept Lavella out of one day’s practice and a football game during the next week, the coach asked Lavella to spot gaps and serve as a front-base at a soccer game and participate in stunting practice on other days. Stockhausen also kept all of the cheerleaders at stunting practice instead of letting them attend their scheduled Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) on Sept. 15.
     During this practice, when Stockhausen had Lavella serve as a back base with relatively inexperienced members – the second most dangerous position in that stunt – a flyer fell onto Lavella a third time.
     Though Lavella fell and hit her head on the track, she continued practice disoriented and distraught. Stockhausen called Lavella’s home after practice, but allegedly failed to alert the student’s mother of the injuries. Lavella’s mother then took her daughter to the hospital, where she was treated for a concussion.
     Lavella sued Stockhausen for allegedly violating her constitutionally protected right to be free from bodily injury, claiming she has endured pain and suffering, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and extensive medical follow-up.
     U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab dismissed the complaint without prejudice Wednesday since Lavella had been medically cleared to participate.
     “Plaintiff contends that defendant took affirmative actions which ‘shock[] the conscience’ because she ‘had time to make unhurried judgments under circumstances allowing for deliberation and forethought,'” Schwab wrote. “However, plaintiff made the choice to attend cheerleading practice and participate during games. If plaintiff was at an increased risk of injury, then the increased risk came from her decision to attend those activities, not directly from defendant’s coaching. … The court believes that allegedly violating plaintiff’s mother’s ‘restriction’ from stunting does not support a claim for state-created danger because defendant’s actions, in coaching practices where plaintiff was present, were not proactive and did not affirmatively expose plaintiff to further danger.”
     Stockhausen had wanted the complaint dismissed with prejudice, but Schwab said it would not be futile for Lavella to amend the complaint. In doing so, she must further clarify in what capacity she has sued Stockhausen so as to consider whether qualified immunity applies.

%d bloggers like this: