The football coach at a Catholic high school in Vallejo, California who was fired in the wake of a hazing scandal has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit again the school and the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. Chris Cerbone, the head football coach, and four other coaches were fired after the hazing incident came to light. The hazing incident was of a sexual nature and was exposed in December 2012.
The four other coaches were reinstated by St. Patrick –St. Vincent school principal Mary Ellen Ryan in January 2013 after an investigation cleared them in the incident. Cerbone was not reinstated because it was determined that he was in charge of overseeing the students and the incident occurred on his watch.
Some of the players informed and assistant coach of the hazing, who relayed the information to Cerbone. Cerbone then alerted Child Protective Services and the school Chaplain and wrote a letter to Ryan advising her to contact the police.
“Whether or not you had direct knowledge of the hazing activities at the time they occurred, the fact that they could have been prevented by proper supervision makes this lapse unacceptable,” Ryan wrote in a letter to Cerbone.
Cerbone’s attorney argues that this is an instance of unlawful whistleblower retaliation. If events unfolded the way that Cerbone described—and there is no evidence to contradict his claim—then he should not have been terminated; he reported the incident immediately.
“I reported the abuse because I wanted to stop it and protect the kids from any further harm,” said Cerbone. “It was a complete shock to be fired for doing the right thing.”
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Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys