ST. PAUL - A high school senior who transferred from Hill-Murray School in Maplewood after years of bullying had his varsity hockey eligibility reinstated this week, hours after filing a lawsuit against his old school and the Minnesota State High School League.
The student filed the suit anonymously Tuesday, Nov. 27, in Ramsey County District Court.
He said Hill-Murray officials pledged to support his plans to play hockey at another private school but ultimately blocked his eligibility at Gentry Academy in Vadnais Heights.
Under MSHSL rules, transfer students generally must sit out a year before competing in varsity sports. There is an exemption for students who have been bullied, but it requires leaders from both schools to make a written request.
His attorney, Celeste Culberth, said the high school league informed the student’s coach Tuesday evening, Nov. 27, that the student would be allowed to play.
Still, the lawsuit will go forward, she said.
The teen’s complaint details persistent bullying by hockey teammates throughout high school.
Other players ridiculed him, stole his hockey tape, kicked and threw food on his truck and hit him with cheap shots at practice, he said. They also froze him out of team communications and told him the wrong time the bus would be leaving from the hotel during this year’s state hockey tournament.
Following an investigation this fall, Hill-Murray was preparing to suspend the bullies for one game each. Ultimately, they were required to participate in a restorative justice program instead.
The Catholic school also reneged on a promise to pay for damage to the teen’s truck, the complaint states.
Meanwhile, in a September email to the teen’s father, the school pledged it “would not block the MSHSL from allowing him to be eligible to play at another school” if he chose to transfer, according to the complaint.
But school officials, citing “exaggerations, inaccuracies and misquotes,” last week refused to sign off on the family’s written account of the bullying.
That refusal caused the high school league to initially deny the teen’s eligibility.
The lawsuit accuses the school of defamation, retaliation, breaking a promise and creating a hostile environment based on sex stereotyping and the teen’s perceived sexual orientation.
The MSHSL is accused of aiding and abetting the school’s retaliation against the student.
Hill-Murray President Jim Hansen said Wednesday, Nov. 28, that he’s “happy to stand by” his earlier statements that the family’s version of events was inaccurate and exaggerated.
Sarah Horner contributed to this report.