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death of a high school athlete and liability issues

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Smallpotatoes, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. Smallpotatoes

    Smallpotatoes Well-Known Member

    Today, one of my younger colleagues had to write about the death of a local high school wrestler. The kid was running, trying to make weight before a meet and struck by a car that some of his teammates driving.
    When my colleague called the coach and the AD, they each said they could not comment. Given that the accident happened as part of a school event, I can understand that there may be a liability issue and for that reason it would be in the school district's best interest not to have any of its employees discuss the accident or what they think or have heard happened. As far as they're concerned, it's best to say nothing about the incident. Fair enough.
    What I can't understand is what harm could come from the coach and AD talking about the kid, maybe a typical "He was a great kid, great athlete; he'll be missed. This is a tragedy, etc." I can't see any lawyer in the world taking an apparently benign statement like that and using it to his advantage in court, but maybe I'm naive.
    Can a good lawyer use even the most seemingly harmless statement to his advantage?
    By the way, another colleague and I were able to steer our co-worker into chasing down other sources and getting a story anyway.
     
  2. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    As sad as it is, even the most benign comments can be used against them.

    Even "we are sorry for the loss" can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, because of the apologetic language.
     
  3. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    I wonder how much of the unwillingness to talk is that other kids involved in the accident were his teammates.
     
  4. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. And the fact it happened during a school event. And the fact that the kid was trying to "make weight" ... which may or may not have been on the up-and-up. Lot of issues here.

    Problem is the school, coach, AD, etc. will come across as uncaring and unfeeling for not commenting. They'll look like assholes to the public for not even giving the "he was a great kid" quote. No way to win in this situation.

    See if the school district will feed you a lawyer-approved comment tomorrow. Or maybe quote the district lawyer saying "we can't comment due to liability issues."
     
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Yeah. I can see the principal or someone from the school board telling everyone to shut their yaps.

    But in this case, it seems you would have a police report to get details of the incident and a wealth of student, teammates, friends to talk about the kids.
     
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't understand the "making weight" being a factor since he was hit by a car. Now, if he was being punished and being told he had to push a car or run behind one and things went bad, that could be really bad for the school.

    I don't know why the kid would be running while other teammates are in their cars.
     
  7. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    It technically wasn't during the meet, but you're spot-on with regards to the other stuff.
     
  8. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    If they were gathered in the name of a school event, it was a school event, even if they were in the parking lot. If the coach was acting in loco parentis at that time, it was a school event.
     
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Every kid is different. Some can make weight easily, some can't.

    Sounds like a terrible situation with his teammates involved.
     
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I guess what I'm thinking is that even if the kid had to stay and run to make weight while the others got to leave and go to the malt shop, it's a terrible coincidence that he would be hit and killed by a teammate.

    I wonder if them being in cars was part of the practice somehow or if they were buzzing around him to be pains or as a joke.

    I think the likelihood that it's more than a random car accident is keeping the school folks close mouthed.
     
  11. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    This could be very problematic for the school and the coaches. As a high school cross country coach we are told not to let our runners run near roads. Instead we should run on tracks and parks. Again, we don't do this and it could turn into a very big problem. Like in this situation.

    There is a good chance the kid shouldnt have been running where he was running and or teammates shouldnt have been driving during practice.... Of course I dont know all the facts.

    Either way, this is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a coach, or a team, or a family.
     
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