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Bullied former Hill-Murray hockey player allowed to play for another school

December 1, 2018

A high school senior who claimed he was bullied throughout his hockey career at Hill-Murray was declared eligible to play for another school just hours after his lawyer filed a lawsuit against the Maplewood private school and the Minnesota State High School League.

The lawsuit says a Hill-Murray investigation corroborated many of the student’s allegations, which included harassment through ridicule, abusive name-calling and exclusion, and play on the ice that targeted him physically. The behavior against the player, identified in the suit as John Doe, escalated from bullying in his freshman year into this year, when teammates accused him of selling out and threw food at his truck and spit on it, the suit said.

The suit said the school said in October that it would suspend three teammates found to have harassed the player, who was a minor during most of the period covered by the allegations, but that those suspensions did not occur. A meeting arranged between the player and some of the accused teammates to repair relationships instead found him being asked why he reported their conduct and was betraying them.

The student decided to transfer in November to Gentry Academy, a private school in Vadnais Heights, believing Hill-Murray would support his bid to the high school league to remain eligible this season.

The lawsuit says school leaders “broke their promise’’ of eligibility support and that the league “aided and abetted the retaliation’’ against the player by denying his eligibility on Nov. 21.

About 5 p.m. Tuesday, a few hours after the suit was filed in Ramsey County District Court and shortly before Gentry’s game that evening, the student was notified by the high school league that he could play varsity this season, said Celeste Culberth, a St. Paul attorney representing the student and his parents.

Tim Leighton, a high school league spokesman, said Friday that the organization ‘‘does not comment on any pending, filed, threatened or settled lawsuits.’’

Efforts to reach Hill-Murray officials on Friday were not successful. In an e-mail sent to Gentry Academy on Nov. 20, the school cited “exaggerations, inaccuracies and misquotes’’ in the family’s account of its investigation, according to the lawsuit.

While the eligibility matter is resolved, the lawsuit still seeks to address other claims, including that the player was defamed, retaliated against and discriminated against in a hostile environment on the basis of perceived sexual orientation.

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