October 20, 2014

Medina
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Ex-player sues Medina Schools

Katie Anderson and David Knox | The Gazette

Chase Johanson

Chase Johanson

A 2013 graduate of Medina High School is suing the school district and three staff members charging he unfairly was dropped by the basketball team after using Internet social media to complain about a lack of playing time.

Chase Johanson, 19, of Medina, originally filed the lawsuit July 23 in Medina County Common Pleas Court, where it was assigned to Judge Christopher J. Collier.

On Wednesday, however, the case was removed from the county court at the request of the defendants, who said the lawsuit belongs in federal court because Johanson’s claims involved constitutional issues.

The lawsuit was refiled in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, where the case was assigned to Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.

Named as defendants are Medina Schools; athletic director Jeff Harrison; Anthony Stacey, former high school basketball coach; and high school Principal Bryan Farson.

The lawsuit asks for more than $75,000 in damages.

Stacey declined to comment. Harrison also declined to comment, said Amy Busby, spokeswoman for the school district. Farson could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit argues Johanson’s First Amendment right to free speech and his 14th Amendment right to due process were violated when he was kicked off the basketball team in 2012.

Johanson charged “his removal from the Medina High School Basketball Team in his senior year was a direct retaliation” for several messages posted on his Internet Twitter account.

After a Dec. 14, 2012, game, Johanson tweeted from his private account, “Am I that bad that I can’t even play on a losing team?”

According to court documents, Johanson did not get any playing time in the game the following day.

He sent out two more private tweets: “At this point the trainer has been on the floor more than I have,” and “At least the Elyria and Brunswick coaches would take me to play basketball.”

On Dec. 17 Farson contacted Johanson’s mother, Amelia Johanson, and told her Johanson would not be allowed to practice that day and that he no longer was allowed to be on the team.

Johanson and his mother met with Farson in May 2013 and asked why Johanson’s private tweets were being treated differently than other negative Tweets from other students, according to court documents.

“This lawsuit has never been about playing time,” Amelia Johanson said Thursday. “The issue was how the administration handles discipline with a policy that doesn’t exist.”

She said she and her son would not be able to comment further before speaking to their attorney, Steve Bailey, of Medina, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The district and the three staff members are being represented by attorneys Patricia F. Weisberg and Jonathan D. Greenberg, of Cleveland.

Chase Johanson is now a student at the University of North Carolina — Wilmington, where he is on the track team.

Contact reporter Katie Anderson at (330) 721-4012 or kanderson@medina-gazette.com.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.


  • Winter911

    Some coaches(as well as administrators) have a Narcissistic personality and for some reason think they are the center of these kids’ lives. When in reality the kids should be what most important to the coach, but they just don’t get it.

    I’ve had several son’s go through sports at a different school and one common trait among coaches who parents/students have the most issues with is a lack of communications. I know when I met with a specific coach his comment was “ if what your saying is true I wouldn’t have my son playing for a coach like that”. A complete lack of recognizing they are the problem and not the kids. These coaches lose a great opportunity to set an example of how to deal with conflict, instead they reaction is to kick someone of the team. It’s pathetic.

    Imagine a world where a kid can be a convicted rapists and remain on a team and another kid can complain on a private twitter account about playing time and get kicked off – that just couldn’t happened, could it? Welcome to the reality of Steubenville and Medina.

    Medina, get your act together and get your coaches/administrators training or better over sight. I know there are difficult parents but this situation with Jeff Harrison; Anthony Stacey, and Bryan Farson look like there are performance/training issues. They’re in charge of your kids, you should demand the best.

  • Advocate

    Agree with you Winter911. These are grown men who couldn’t take the criticism. The comments posted in the social media by this young man weren’t hurtful or hateful. That’s the problem with a growing number of people in this country. No one has the guts to take criticism anymore among other things. You’ve a got a little 3 yr. old that was booted out of school because his mother posted a complaint about picture day. Are you kidding me!!!

  • FLK

    Read the brief. This was helicopter parenting at it’s finest. He didn’t get kicked off for the Tweets, that was just the final straw.

  • Wake up Medina

    Go for it young man. Another black eye for the Medina City Schools. The District, high school and athletic department has covered up for many years serious issues with its coaches, and the ways it operates. From stealing from the boosters, to rampant illegal and prescription drug use by players, to playing in eligible players, this district is again being exposed for what it is. I hope this young man wins and wins big. And thanks to Knight and the rest of the board members for continuing wasting our money, all the while telling us how wonderful things are. Didn’t Nero play the fiddle while Rome was burning. Good luck with that!!! Oh that’s right, you are all for the students.

  • SpoiledRottenKids

    You cannot spell Medina without a ME and I……just sayin

  • Creepy Gun Toting Cracker

    Wow, just wow !

  • HoopSG11

    This kind of complaining has gone on here for years… I heard some of this nonsense about Medina athletics when I first came to this area about 15 years ago. At the time, I thought maybe there was something to it. But here we are 15 years later, and the same complaining continues on. Think about it, there is now a new superintendant, a new AD (who came from outside Medina), and a whole slew of new head coaches (many of whom also came from outside Medina) , and yet here we are still hearing the same complaints. Grow up parents, maybe your child wasn’t quite as good as you thought he was. And by the way, if any of us were to openly criticize our bosses on social media, we’d probably be fired. Life lesson learned.
    And WakeMeUp, those are pretty strong accusations. Yes pretty much everyone here is posting anonymously, but I think it’s pretty cowardly to throw that sort of accussation out there and then run away behind your keyboard. If you have proof of any of that stuff, I’d encourage you to speak to someone at the school or board office and present your evidence.

  • kas

    His right for due process was violated?!? I thought he was kicked off of a sports team BY IT’S COACH, not arrested and thrown in jail without a hearing for a year.

    sounds like a kid looking for a quick buck because he wouldn’t talk to the coach about his playing time. And there is his mother, who probably never bothered to teach him that he needs to accept the consequences of his actions. She just says – we will just sue them, get money for nothing, no need to be responsible for what you say or do, son.

  • Michelle

    The truth is – Medina High School athletics are a joke. My daughter spent THREE years with MHS Cheerleading. She had stellar grades, followed all the rules, never missed practices or games (and I mean NEVER), wasn’t out partying (yes, I’m sure – she was home studying) – she attended every camp, she did every single fundraiser and in all we invested THOUSANDS in cheerleading. She was good enough to travel to San Antonio for the Alamo bowl in TX during her junior year and cheeered varsity during part of her junior year.

    Only to have the coach decide LAST MINUTE (literally less than two weeks before senior try outs) to change the scoring format so that she could win the single competition that Medina Cheer participates in every year. FOUR girls (not just my daughter) were cut from the team for their senior year after their three years of dedication and investment.

    To make matters worse – There were girls with pending court actions, drug addictions (in treatment programs) and serious school violations that still made the team. Farson actually told me that if my daughter was addicted to drugs I’d
    still want her to have the chance. No, my daughter was NOT addicted to
    drugs and her chance was taken by girl(s) who WERE.

    When the four moms RESPECTFULLY requested a review by Harrison & Farson of what had happened we were met with a “boys club” mentality that was beyond absurd. It didn’t matter what us parents said – they had an answer and they wouldn’t even consider that there was something wrong with the way things went down – although THE COACH HERSELF SAID IT HAD. She even admitted one of the girls that was cut was one that she wanted as captain. All we wanted was the girls reinstated to the team (making it larger WAS an option – most other schools have larger cheer squads) but were told it “might make other parents upset.” It would be worse to have 30+ parents upset then it would be to have us 4 sets of parents mad. We were easier to handle then publicly admitting they made a mistake and fixing it. That is what it came down to.

    Ultimately three of the four girls left MHS for their SENIOR year and transferred to other schools. When I spoke with Harrison about the harassment my daughter was getting from other kids
    because of all of it – he told me if I didn’t like it to remove her from the
    school. Way to defend the bullies – chase away the victim. Two of the girls went to college early through post secondary (obviously had excellent grades), including my own. One stayed on and one transferred to another school.

    So after that long vent – I absolutely 100% support Chase and his family. As another mom who has had a child be a victim of the MHS administration BULLIES – I absolutely know how things happen. They’re NEVER wrong and even when they are they make a stance and won’t budge. It is NOT about the kids at all. It’s about their egos and “winning” competitions.

    As karma is sweet – The cheer coach lost that year after a long streak of placing first and second :)

  • EveryoneGetsaTrophy

    Everyone DOES NOT get a trophy in real life! Follow the rules, play hard and work your butt off and maybe you’ll get to play the game. Screw around, complain, have a bad attitude and you’ll sit the bench! Whether you want to admit it or not high school athletics is about wins and losses. If you don’t believe this then go ask all of those coaches who have lost their jobs and put up with crazy parents coming after them because they didn’t win enough. Besides the girls soccer coach there is/was not a more caring and compassionate coach for the kids than the boys basketball coach. Nor is there a more caring and compassionate AD than the current one. The VAST majority of you have NO IDEA what really goes on. You base your conclusions and decisions on horrible reporting in this and other area papers and on rumors started by selfish and childish parents/community members. Throwing rocks when you live in a glass house Medina WILL eventually result in exposing yourself. When that happens think about how you made others feel when you ran your mouth off about what you knew little to nothing about. Look in the mirror and come to grips with the issues in your own life and leave good people like the AD and Coach alone! The same goes for your kids, who are a reflection of you!

  • DAI

    The lawsuit is based on the assumption that we have a “right” to an education. We have no right to an education as guaranteed by the federal government. It is a privilege, like a driver’s license; and – like your driver’s license – it can be revoked.

    You are not given “due process” when you are expelled. To that end, extracurricular activities have even less guarantee.

    Children needs to learn that when you slander a person of authority you will be penalized. It’s how the adult world works. More so, in the 21st century frivolous lawsuits will follow you around, and every future potential employer will take pause when they Google the applicant.

  • Slobbington von Slob

    Kid seems like a real winner.

  • Frederich Handle

    Who was the tattletale from Twitter to the AD, coach, etc? Someone on the team had to report the twitters. I agree, stupid reason to be kicked off the team (but stupid is as stupid does). I thought teachers/administration/etc were not allowed to be “friends” on FB, or followers on twitter? Its a frivolous lawsuit though. There is still too much politics with regards to sports and other extracurricular activites.

  • jim

    I had a coach Denny Barowitch at Wadsworth high school & junior high. He cut me twice. Best thing that ever happened to me. Taught me never to give up later on in life. The team I was cut from never lost a game. Guess coach knew what he was doing. I’ve never had the chance to thank Denny but Denny if your reading this thread-thanks. I don’t think Denny would survive coaching in a twitter world. But if you ask a kid from Wadsworth from 1975-1980 that he coached they would tell you he was mighty tough but always fair.

  • Hmmm

    ….Well she probably wasn’t all that great at cheerleading.