Feather River College players bring suit of their own

Mona Hill
Staff Writer

Attorneys for Feather River College (FRC) students Emory Boyd Jr., Quinton Hancock and Nicholos Page filed a complaint Jan. 25 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, naming Feather River Community College District (FRCCD), FRC athletic director Merle Trueblood and FRC football coach James Johnson as defendants.

Each of the plaintiffs played football for the Golden Eagles during the 2009-2010 academic year. They were recruited from South Carolina by Eric Small, former assistant head football coach, who filed suit against FRC, Trueblood and Johnson in November 2010, alleging discrimination, disparate treatment and violations of civil rights and federal statutes.

The new lawsuit alleges that once Small was no longer in the college’s employ, Trueblood, Johnson and Josh White, another member of the coaching staff, insulted, unfairly criticized, abused and taunted the team’s African American players, including the plaintiffs, while Caucasian players were not treated in such a manner.

Attorneys Terri Keyser-Cooper and Diane K. Vaillancourt also allege that coaching staff decided to change the “face” of the team from 80 percent African American to 80 percent Caucasian under the guise of the 85-player cap the college instituted for the 2010 season.

The lawsuit also alleges the three players were not told they would not play until it was too late to apply to a different school or they were already at the college.

Of the three, only Page made the team. However, the complaint alleges, White would not play him, favoring players who were obviously (according to Page) inferior to him.

When contacted by telephone Dr. Ron Taylor, FRC president and superintendent, declined specific comment about the case and referenced a statement he made to college employees via e-mail.

In his statement, Taylor wrote the district denies allegations of discriminatory practices involving the football program completely. His statement concludes, “FRCCD is dedicated to educating all its students and preparing them to move on to four-year institutions and/or successful careers.”


Small v. FRC

Attorneys for the district have filed two motions but no response to Small’s complaint — a motion to dismiss alleging plaintiffs have failed to provide facts to support the complaint as well as a motion to strike a good portion of the complaint “because each alleged incident occurred outside the statute of limitation for bringing a claim pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The motion to strike challenges other portions of the complaint because “each paragraph concerns an allegation regarding a privileged communication pursuant to the ‘Noerr-Pennington Doctrine.’” Still others are challenged because they contain “irrelevant, immaterial, improper, prejudicial, and scandalous allegations not supported by facts.”

In a telephone interview, Keyser-Cooper said it was unlikely the court would dismiss, because of the lower standard for bringing suit. Plaintiffs only have to show prima facie evidence (just enough reasonable evidence) to sue.

The attorney said the real fight would be after discovery when the district’s attorneys, Alesa Schachter and Jennifer L. Hippo of Johnson Schachter & Lewis, were most likely to file for a summary judgment — essentially a claim that plaintiffs have not made their case.

The motions before the court will be heard in early March.

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