Appeals court denies rehearing for Tenn. football players who petitioned against coach

TENNESSEE — The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deniedfull-court review to four former Jefferson County High School football playerswho were kicked off the team after petitioning against their coach.

In August 2007, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that theplayers’ First Amendment rights were not infringed upon because theirefforts undermined Marty Euverard’s authority to coach, and because theironly punishment was being removed from a voluntary extracurricular activity.

The court’s Feb. 1 order denying further review said “theissues raised in the petition were fully considered upon the original submissionand decision of the case.”

Michael S. Kelley, the football players’ attorney, told theKnoxville News-Sentinel in a March 15 article that he is

“disappointed in the 6th Circuit’s decision. We anticipate filing apetition for cert [to the U.S. Supreme Court].”

Linda J. Hamilton Mowles, attorney for Jefferson County High School and itsathletic officials, said it is not likely that the Supreme Court will hear thecase.

“It’s a very slim chance … [The Supreme Court] has alreadyaddressed many of these issues,” Mowles said.

In 2005 many members of the football team “became dissatisfied withEuverard’s coaching methods,” and said he “humiliated anddegraded players,” according to the appellate panel. Eighteen of the 22players signed the petition to have Euverard replaced, but only those who laterapologized to the coach were able to remain on the team.

Students Derrick Lowery, Jacob Giles, Joseph Dooley and Dillon Spurlockfiled suit in December 2005. The district court denied Jefferson County Board ofEducation’s motion for summary judgment, and the board appealed. Theappeals court found that all defendants were entitled to summary judgment,meaning that there were no disputed factual issues requiring a jury trial.

In the August 2007 appeals court decision, the panel referred to thelandmark student speech case of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent CommunitySchool District, by saying, “Tinker does not require teachersto surrender control of the classroom to students, and it does not requirecoaches to surrender control of the team to players.”

In Tinker, the Supreme Court ruled that in order to censor studentspeech, administrators must prove the speech would create a “substantialdisruption” of normal school activities or would invade the rights of others.

Kelley did not return calls to his office Tuesday and Wednesday.