June 28, 2016

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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.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.