Fired whistleblower sues Sacramento diocese | Education
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SACRAMENTO, CA - A head football coach at a Catholic high school in Vallejo has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the school and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
Chris Cerbone and four other coaches were fired last month, and five football players were expelled after reporting sexual abuse and hazing on the team. Now Cerbone is filing suit.
He said he reported the alleged abuse because he wanted to stop it and to protect the students from any further harm. He says it was a complete shock to be fired for doing the right thing.
"I found out about it. I did the right thing. I reported it. I'm the one who's without a job," said Cerbone last month after being fired from St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School.
Back in December, Cerbone heard freshman players say varsity football players were hazing them in a school locker room.
He claimed he heard players were exposing their genitals to harass younger teammates.
Cerbone, who also happens to be a former New York police officer, reported that to Child Protective Services, a chaplain, and then the principal.
Not long afterward, he got word that he was being terminated.
Cerbone claims he was fired in retaliation for reporting sexual hazing.
"We didn't make a personnel decision based on him being a whistleblower," said Kevin Eckery, Sacramento diocese spokesman.
The diocese says Cerbone was not fired because he reported the hazing incident but because he failed to properly supervise his players.
"We made a personnel decision based on other factors, including that he was ultimately responsible for the football program and that's where this problem was," Eckery said.
Cerbone's attorney, David Lowe, said, "This is a classic case of whistleblower retaliation. The diocese should be ashamed of its role in firing a teacher for reporting sexual abuse."
The suit alleges Cerbone suffered defamation, wrongful termination and retaliation, and it seeks lost wages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees and costs.
Cerbone said there was hazing on the team even before he became coach last summer.
But, he said the first time he learned of the hazing, he reported it.
He believes he did the right thing reporting the alleged abuse and he stands by his lawsuit.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org