Jefferson City Public Schools is at the center of a new lawsuit over allegations that a former wrestling coach forcibly cut a student’s long hair prior to a wrestling match in 2017.
Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS) is facing a lawsuit alleging a wrestling coach forcibly cut a student’s hair back in November 2017. The suit was filed on January 25 by Roxanna L. Meudt-Antele, the parent of the seventh-grade student. According to Meudt-Antele, her son joined the wrestling team at Thomas Jefferson Middle School back in the fall of 2017 “when his coach, Alexander Whelan, complained about her son’s long hair.” Then, on November 13, 2017, when her son was getting dressed for a wrestling match at Blair Oaks Middle School, Whelan “confronted and demanded (her son) to immediately cut his hair while in the locker room.”
In response to his coach’s request, the student allegedly “asked if he could call his mother, but Whelan allegedly prevented him from doing that,” according to the suit. Instead, the coach told the boy that “it was his hair and not his mom’s, and therefore, he could not call her.” The student then asked to “forfeit his match instead of having to cut his hair, at which point Whelan walked away.” What the student didn’t know was that Whelan was searching for barber scissors. When he returned, Whelan forced the scissors “into the boy’s hands once he was dressed for the meet and demanded he immediately cut his own hair.” Alarmed, the student begrudgingly began to cut his hair, “but Whelan allegedly complained the wrestler was not cutting fast enough, so he told five other wrestling teammates of the boy to hold him down so Whelan could cut his hair himself.” Though he tried to get up and leave, the student was not able to do so because he was being held down.
As a result, the suit the boy’s mother filed is seeking damages and a jury trial. It also accuses the coach and school of eight separate counts, including assault and/or battery, false imprisonment, bullying and harassment, negligent supervision and/or hiring, negligent failure to supervise children, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act.
Additionally, the petition argues that JCPS “knew or should have known Whelan had dangerous proclivities through the interview process, background check, employment history or any other method of determining whether a person is fit to instruct and coach minor children.”
The lawsuit also includes a discrimination charge over allegations that the “defendants’ actions created a hostile environment because of Meudt-Antele’s son’s race or ethnicity — Hispanic — and gender — male.” It states:
“The boy was the only member of the (wrestling) team that was asked to have his hair cut. Other members of the team, including girls and non-Hispanic students with long hair, were not asked to cut their hair…The boy was targeted by Whelan because his hair did not conform to the normative male stereotypes Whelan held regarding appearance and because (the boy) is Hispanic.”
In response to the lawsuit, JCPS issued the following statement:
“The way this student was treated is wholly incompatible with district expectations for staff conduct. We have not, and will not, tolerate this type of unacceptable behavior from anyone on our staff. The district has no policy that would require the cutting of a male or female wrestler’s hair, and as soon as the district became aware of this incident we investigated and took appropriate action…Alexander Whelan is no longer employed with the district, and has not been employed with the district since December 2017.”