A federal Civil Rights Action was filed against Woodmore Local Schools and football coaches Britton Devier and Todd Bringman stemming from an alleged hazing incident in which a player suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The case involves a 16-year-old student represented by the Charles E. Boyk law firm of Toledo and is assigned to Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Western Division.
Plaintiffs Daniel Sprinski and Amy Sprinski are asking for $75,000 or more in compensatory damages for personal injuries, pain and suffering, disability, medical and hospital expenses, sanctions, exemplary damages, and other damages, along with reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, pre-judgment costs, and other relief the court deems just.
The school district responded with a statement reading, “The Woodmore School District maintains a high standard of safety consistent with schools in the State of Ohio and the safety of our students and student-athletes is a top priority. This concern was immediately investigated and addressed and all required reports were made.
“Not only did the district conduct a thorough investigation, but the Ohio Attorney General’s office conducted an investigation along with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and presented testimony from 49 witnesses to a grand jury, resulting in no indictment and no charges against Woodmore Schools or its employees.
“While we cannot discuss specifics at this time due to student privacy laws, the district strongly disputes the false allegations in the lawsuit and looks forward to providing its response to the court.”
Board member Steve Huss said two attorneys have been retained, including one representing the insurance company.
A statement from the Boyk law office alleges, “On September 10, 2013, Head Coach Devier and Assistant Coach Bringman organized and implemented an attack against players as part of an effort to punish and haze certain members of the football team for lack of ‘hustle.’
“Due to the extreme heat, that day’s practice was planned as a ‘non-contact’ practice, meaning the players were instructed not to wear their full uniforms; only helmets, shoulder pads, girdles with hip pads, and shorts.
“When the players failed to complete their non-contact drills to the satisfaction of Devier and Bringman, they were ordered to return to the locker room and change into full uniforms, making sure to be back on the field within eight minutes. The players were also warned that failure to return to the field within the allotted eight minutes would result in several consequences.
“Of the approximately 45 players on the team, only 6-10 returned to the field within eight minutes. Those not returning in time were instructed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a single file line and were from that point referred to as ‘Old Woodmore.’ The ‘New Woodmore’ players were those who had made it back in time. The ‘Old Woodmore’ players were instructed to ‘take a hit’ before they could join the ‘New Woodmore’ team, which is when the ‘New Woodmore’ players were instructed to hit the ‘Old Woodmore’ players as hard as possible. The ‘Old Woodmore’ players were also forced to participate in the ‘Bull in the Ring’ drill in which any behavior against the victim was allowed: grabbing face masks, pulling, pushing and hitting, among other acts.
“The ‘Old Woodmore’ players were not allowed to make any effort to defend themselves,” Boyk’s statement continues. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that Bringman pushed the “New Woodmore” players to help get them running at the “Old Woodmore” players.
“Our 16-year-old client was one of the ‘Old Woodmore’ players who were hit with such force that he subsequently vomited, became disoriented, and collapsed, which are all tell-tale signs of a severe brain injury. No ambulance was called.
“Our client was unresponsive while his older brother and teammate drove him home. His parents took him to Mercy St. Charles Hospital before he was transported via ambulance to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center where he was ultimately diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury after spending the night at the Intensive Care Unit.”
The lawsuit claims the 16-year-old “was initially diagnosed with a concussion, paresthesia and pain of both upper extremities, and cervical ligamentous injury causing transient weakness and sensory changes in his arms and legs.” It adds that he was subsequently diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
The Boyk law office verified the 16-year-old is no longer attending Woodmore Schools and that doctors say he can never play contact sports again.
The plaintiffs allege “the football drills in question did not comply with the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s guidelines regarding the reduction of head and neck injuries in football.”
In conversations with The Press, Dan Sprinski said he believes Bringman’s role being in charge of the drill led to the incident and injury to his son, but says Devier was on the practice field at the time. Devier was contacted by email but declined to comment on the advice of counsel.
Bringman resigned after the incident. Bringman’s mother, Rebecca Migliori, told The Press in October that parents are running a “witch hunt” against her son and notes all the positive things he has done for the youth athletic programs in the Woodmore district.
“In light of the recent Super Bowl, we hope that parents take the time to talk to their child athletes about the types of drills that are being run during practice,” Charles Boyk stated. “Drills in any sport should be used as a tool to increase skill and performance, not to punish players. When coaches use retaliation and punishment instead of encouragement to drive their drills, lines are quickly crossed and injuries occur.
“The purpose of the lawsuit is to stress the importance of protecting child athletes, especially since their bodies and brains are still developing.”