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N.Y. family sues high school hockey coach for keeping son on JV team


The family of a former Webster Thomas hockey player has sued the school district and hockey coach for keeping him at the junior varsity level for four years "in spite of his advanced skills."

The lawsuit was filed last month by Webster resident Michelle Capellupo on behalf of her son, Stephen Capellupo. It claims the coach, 2008 New York State Coach of the Year David Evans, cut him from the team vindictively after the family complained to the school administration.

COMPLAINT: View the lawsuit

"(Capellupo) was cut from the varsity team by Evans in retaliation for his good faith complaints ... regarding the concerns about the manner in which (he) was being treated," the lawsuit reads. "Evans' failure to select plaintiff for the varsity team was an abuse of Evans' power that had a deleterious effect on (Capellupo's) future as a hockey player."

Capellupo made the varsity team as a freshman in the 2008-09 season, according to the lawsuit, but was demoted to junior varsity after a period of academic ineligibility.

For most of the next three years, he participated in the team's off-season activities, attended extra practices and "dominated" at junior varsity but was kept at the lower level by Evans, who allegedly told him, "We see you from the outside in."

After his junior season, according to the lawsuit, Capellupo's parents met with Webster Superintendent Adele Bovard, who promised to talk with Evans and assured the parents there would be no retaliation. Capellupo played junior varsity for the fourth time as a senior in the 2011-12 season and graduated that spring.

The lawsuit claims Capellupo's right to equal protection was violated and seeks unspecified damages. It calls Evans "a notoriously vindictive and unapproachable coach."

Evans, a physical education teacher at Webster, helped found the Webster Thomas hockey program and was head coach for 11 years. He won five Section V championships as well as a state championship in 2008.

He announced in July a one-year leave of absence during which he will travel and coach with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes hockey program.

Michelle Capellupo declined to comment on the case. The family's lawyer, Christina Agola, was suspended from legal practice in September and did not respond to a request for comment.

The district's lawyer, Charles Symons, would not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but said it has no merit and plans to file a motion to dismiss.

"Webster treats all its students fairly and consistently with its legal obligations," he said. "That includes student-athletes, and we're confident that happened here."

Justin Murphy writes for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, a Gannett property.

 

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