WESTLAKE VILLAGE (CBSLA.com) — The family of a Ventura County high school senior threatened a lawsuit Wednesday after their son was suspended for confronting a football player who allegedly sexually harassed his then 14-year-old sister for the third time.
Dominic Conti, 17, was suspended from Westlake High School for five days following an incident at a football game on October 11, 2013.
Conti, until his suspension, was also the WHS senior class president, an elected position that he was subsequently removed from. He was also banned from all extracurricular activities.
Conti family attorney Manny Medrano said the punishment sends the wrong message.
"If your child, boy or girl, at this school, or frankly any school in the district, is the victim of sexual harassment, we're not going to do anything, you're on your own," he said at a news conference Wednesday.
Family Threatens Lawsuit, Action With Calif. Dept. Of Education Over Senior's Suspension
"They way they treated me was someone that has brought, like, a firearm to school," Conti said.
At the news conference on Wednesday, Conti insisted he was just protecting his sister.
"I can assure you that the way I acted, it was in self defense," he said.
The Conti family claims the school's alleged protection of their top-ranked football program is "more important that preventing sexual harassment."
The family wants an apology from the Conejo Valley Unified School District, Dominic's suspension removed from his record and for him to be reinstated as class president.
The CVUSD board has reportedly refused to hear their case and now the Conti's plan to take it to the California Department of Education.
If no resolution comes from the state level, the family plans to file a lawsuit against WHS administration and the district for defamation and disclosing personal information about Dominic.
"I'm a victim of sexual harassment," said Conti's sister, who claims the player had said vulgar comments to her on at least three occasions. "And you know what, it is not okay."
According to the family, several complaints had been made to administrators about the freshman player's conduct prior to the Oct. 11 incident.
Dominic, his father, Lawrence, and a school security guard confronted the boy at a game that night in an attempt to "escort the player to school administration after he again sexually harassed the girl," a statement said.
"That's when [the player] lunged at me and my dad and he threw a punch. In self defense, I pushed down his arm," he said.
The football player was suspended for two days for fighting.
Dominic, a 4.4 GPA student, insists he never threw a punch at the football player and explained to the principal that he only acted in self-defense.
"I looked him in the eye and I said, 'Mr. Lipari, I do not regret protecting my sister,'" Dominic said.
The family also filed a harassment claim and requested a restraining order against the football player in October.
The player has filed the same legal action against Lawrence and Dominic Conti.
All cases are scheduled to return to court in April.
During the Conti news conference, a parent named Marcus Evans showed up and angrily challenged the family's version of events.
He said he witnessed the October confrontation.
"They choked the little kid, the African-American kid," said Evans, "He didn't do anything. He was trying to get away from the dad."
The Contis attorney insisted it was the young man who lunged at the Contis and who was the aggressor.
"And then subsequently it's Larry Conti and his son who are taken into custody by the sheriff's department," said Medrano.
In August, the Westlake Warriors were at the center of an alleged hazing incident involving freshman and senior players when the team traveled to Hawaii for a game.
One student was arrested for third degree sexual assault after a parent complained to police in Honolulu, but charges were never filed.
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