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Region family sues school over alleged slapping incident involving wrestling coach

Region family sues school over alleged slapping incident involving wrestling coach

From the ICYMI: Here are the most-read stories from the past week series
Duneland School Corp.

Chesterton High School is shown.

HAMMOND — A Chesterton family is seeking $1 million from the local school district over a slap in the face.

Lawyers for the family have filed a lawsuit against a Chesterton High School volunteer wrestling coach, Keith Davison, as well as the entire Duneland School Corp. for an alleged civil rights violation.

They claim Davison slapped a 16-year-old student late last year during a school wrestling team practice session.

Portage attorneys Matthew B. Dogan and Thomas M. Dogan filed the suit early this week in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

It states the student has been an avid team wrestler since eighth grade. She had continued competitive wrestling in high school, where she was a member of the varsity team last year and finished third place at the state wrestling meet her freshman year.

Join Tristan DeFord, Jami Rieck, and Nancy Zakutanksky on a shift working for Superior Ambulance in Merrillville.

The suit alleges Davison was overseeing a practice session Dec. 28 where the student was practicing a new wrestling technique with a team member.

It alleges Davison became upset with her, commanded her to “present your face” and then smacked her once across the face.

The attorneys claim it not only hurt her physically, but it also caused embarrassment and fear.

They claim Davison treated her this way because she is a female participating in a traditionally, and predominantly, male sport.

Bridget Martinson, public relations director for the Duneland School Corp., declined comment, saying the administration doesn't address any student's personal issues.

Matthew Dogan said Tuesday his client felt forced to quit the wrestling team because she didn’t feel safe with Davison attending practices, ruining her chances to attend the Girl’s State Tournament last January and possibly proceeding to the national meet.

The suit contains the text of an email purportedly from Davison to the family the day after the incident, in which he admitted slapping the student and another student.

Davison allegedly states, “I was addressing sub-par technique and meant for the (slap) to be received in jest and am so sorry that it was an offense to (her). I hope that you ... will consider accepting my heartfelt apology."

Kenneth B. Elwood, a Portage attorney representing Davison, said Wednesday afternoon, “Mr. Davison is not denying that he did it. As he said in the email, it was done in jest and with no ill will."

Elwood said others who witnessed the slap believed it was done as a jest and that the girl didn’t appear distraught at the time.

Dogan said the family is most upset that Davison was still at the high school coaching a school wrestling club 11 days after Chesterton High School officials promised to investigate the incident.

The suit alleges the student's grades declined because she wasn’t comfortable attending school in person, for fear Davison might be in the school building and their paths might cross.

It states she has been forced to attend alternative school and summer school via a teleconferencing computer link due to the refusal “to create a safe place” for her to attend regular classes.

Dogan said the student is still unsure whether she will attend school for her junior year.

He said she is still upset school officials have not taken the proper action to address bullying by Davison because she doesn’t want this to happen to any other student.

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