RENO, Nev. -- Three former Nevada high school football players have filed a federal lawsuit that says they had to leave the team after they challenged bullying from their coach.
The lawsuit names the coach, Galena High School principal and Washoe County School District, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Bullying by a coach runs afoul of district policy, said lawyer Terri Keyser-Cooper, who is representing Mateo Lemus, Bryan Madison and Jake Berger.
Coach Steve Struzyk, who has coached the team for 15 seasons, could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit says Struzyk stripped the team captains of their leadership roles in front of the rest of the varsity players after the school discovered the three athletes had used an over-the-counter, testosterone-boosting supplement.
The Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association does not prohibit the supplement, Keyser-Cooper said.
The lawsuit says Lemus left the team after a private meeting with the coach. Lemus said, “I’m not the kind of person to bend over and take this,” to which the coach replied, “You better learn to bend over if I tell you to.”
The lawsuit says the other two players were kicked off the team after asking the coach to let Lemus come back.
The school district investigated and found the bullying charges “inconclusive,” the lawsuit says, CBS affiliate KTVN reported.
Galena won no games after the three players were cut Sept. 17. The team ended the season 2-7.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and legal fees.
“What’s so really traumatic for these kids is they were all planning on getting football scholarships,” Keyser-Cooper said. “Football was an essential element of their life, to which they dedicated tremendous time and attention.”
A statement released after the lawsuit was filed says the Washoe County School District is looking into the matter.
“The District always takes seriously any allegations of misconduct by its employees. As with any matter involving employees and litigation, it is inappropriate for the District to comment or litigate these matters in the press,” the statement says. “The District, however, takes all such allegations seriously and is looking into this matter.”