Ex-players accuse Florida high school baseball team of racial slurs, hazing

Two former baseball players at a Florida high school allege their teammates peppered them with racial slurs and accused them of bullying, hazing and harassment while coaches did nothing to prevent it, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

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The families of Jay King and Judah Norwood filed the negligence lawsuit against the Pinellas County School Board in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

King, 17, and his father, Charlie King, along with Norwood and his mother, Shannon Norwood, are seeking more than $15,000 in damages, according to the lawsuit.

Jay King and Judah Norwood were former baseball players at East Lake High School, the Times reported. The two youths addressed the school board about the allegations Tuesday night, the newspaper reported.

"I'm not a liar," King told the board, according to the Times. "Everything I said is true. Hazing, sexual harassment and bullying did occur."

School board members did not respond to the allegations, the newspaper reported.

The lawsuit alleges that during the 2017-2018 school year, King and Norwood were intimidated and harassed after a practice by teammates. They allege they were taken to a secluded area, where coaches, teachers or school administrators were not present, and were subjected to a hazing ritual by their teammates.

King told the Times he had heard about the hazing before his senior season, but was skeptical.

“They were telling me about it in the fall, and I thought it was a joke,” King told the newspaper. “I didn’t take it serious until the day actually came up.”

King and Norwood refused to participate in the ritual, the Times reported. The lawsuit alleges that when Norwood ran away, he was chased by teammates who yelled insults. They stopped when King threatened to call 911.

"I knew the whole team," Norwood told the Times. "I played football, they knew me. It was good until that happened."

“The school system is under a duty to supervise,” Todd Hoover, the attorney representing the families, told the newspaper. “There was a lack of adequate supervision.”

Both players transferred to other schools. Only King still plays baseball.

East Lake baseball coach Zack Roper declined to comment to the Times.

In a statement to the newspaper, school district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the agency “fully investigated the incident both internally and externally and found there was no negligence on the part of our staff.”

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