Two months after she was sued for allegedly defaming the varsity basketball coaching staff at Maumee Valley Country Day School, a Toledo woman is suing the school her children once attended.
Dana Zeller filed suit Tuesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against Maumee Valley alleging that the school's negligent supervision led to her then 10-year-old son suffering a traumatic brain injury after a basketball game in February, 2016.
The complaint, which has been assigned to Judge Gary Cook, seeks damages in excess of $25,000.
“This is a nice lady who is trying to raise, on her own, four kids,” said Toledo attorney Chuck Boyk, who filed the lawsuit. “She works. She was the Volunteer of the Year [at MVCDS], and something bad happens to her kid due to the negligence of Maumee Valley while she's busy supporting Maumee Valley selling 50/50 raffle tickets. Her kid gets a traumatic brain injury, and basically since that time they've treated her family really bad.”
According to the complaint, Ms. Zeller's then fifth-grade son played an exhibition-style basketball game at halftime of the high school game on Feb. 19, 2016. Afterward, the fourth and fifth-grade basketball players were given pizza and refreshments in the school's auxiliary gym.
It was there that her son was struck in the head and knocked down by a basketball that had been thrown by another boy. The other boy — who the suit alleges had been “recruited” to play basketball at the school despite his history of behavioral and disciplinary issues — then “forcefully and repeatedly hit him with footballs.”
He also allegedly struck him with a medicine ball before other students intervened and helped Ms. Zeller's son out of the gym. She took him to Toledo Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
The complaint alleges that school officials acknowledged that the pizza party should have been supervised by adults, but otherwise “have taken no meaningful steps to support Ms. Zeller or [her son].”
Mr. Boyk said Ms. Zeller's three youngest children continued to attend Maumee Valley this school year but were not offered re-enrollment agreements for next fall. She withdrew the children from the school last week, he said.
Gary Boehm, Maumee Valley's head of school, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Ms. Zeller said in a telephone interview that she chose Maumee Valley for her children because of its high academic standards, personal attention to students, and emphasis on respect for everyone. She became an active volunteer, was president of the athletic boosters for two years, and was named Volunteer of the Year in May, 2015.
“I was very happy with the school up until the way they handled this whole situation,” she said.
She said the student who assaulted her son and another student was made to stay inside for recess but suffered no other punishment for his conduct. Her son spent four days in the hospital and did not return to school until two weeks before the school year ended.
She said he has lasting effects from the brain injury, including short-term memory loss and difficulty focusing. He cannot take part in contact sports because he's at risk for re-injury.
“Pushing me out was very, very hurtful,” Ms. Zeller said. “I had devoted so much of my time and energy to them, and this was something that was not in my control.”
Mr. Boyk said Ms. Zeller has suffered retribution for speaking out.
“It's retaliation for probably everything, but part of it is you don't speak out against the establishment,” Mr. Boyk said.
On Jan. 8, Maumee Valley's head basketball coach Robert Conover and assistant coaches Stanley Hill, Stephen Coleman, and Dontaviyon Fleming filed a defamation lawsuit against Ms. Zeller and three other Maumee Valley parents — Lincoln Kynard, Robert Woodley, and Abraham Abouhamed.
The suit claims the parents sent emails and spoke out at meetings attacking the coaches, wrongly accusing them of criminal convictions, stating that coaches lacked proper certifications, and otherwise attacking their integrity.
In a response to the suit filed last month by Ms. Zeller's attorney, Raymond Pittman III, she denied the allegations and asked the court to dismiss the complaint as frivolous.
Ms. Zeller “has not engaged upon any 'attacks' upon Plaintiffs,” the response states. “Instead, [she] has raised legitimate and truthful concerns about Plaintiffs with the MVCDS Administration.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.
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