The family of a Brooke Point High School football player who suffered a concussion after being choked by a teammate in the locker room has hired lawyers and is seeking damages from the Stafford County School Board.
Scott Bucci of Richmond-based Bucci & Dix, who has experience in hazing cases, filed a damage claim and sent a letter asking the board to preserve evidence in the Oct. 23 incident. The family also retained Elliott Buckner of the Richmond-based firm Cantor, Stoneburner, Ford, Grana.
Buckner, who specializes in cases with traumatic head injuries, said the claim doesn’t necessarily signal that a lawsuit is coming. But it satisfies a state law that requires notice to counties for claims of negligence.
“We’re really just in the preliminary information gathering stage,” said Buckner, who declined to comment further on possible future steps.
“We, on a cursory review, thought that the case has merit,” he added.
The family of the choking victim declined to comment.
The claim letter states that the student who was choked underwent medical treatment as a result of the locker-room injuries from a “choking game.”
The letter also states that many Brooke Point employees, including Principal Scott McClellan, head football coach Tommy Buzzo and Assistant Principal for Athletics and Activities Roger Pierce, were aware that some students “routinely engaged in assaultive and abusive behavior towards other students, including ‘choking games,’ and other incidents of bullying and hazing.”
“These employees knew or should have known that the incident at issue was occurring or about to occur, and their actions and/or omissions constitute” negligence, the letter continues.
Two football players quit the team last August for what they saw as sustained and escalating bullying, according to emails obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request.
The second letter from Bucci serves as a formal demand to preserve any evidence related to the incident. It specifically demands preservation of Brooke Point security camera footage on Oct. 23 and emails from some Brooke Point football coaches and school administrators, including McClellan.
The letter specifically asks for emails containing phrases such as “knockout,” “choking game” and “sleeper hold,” and any emails referring to incidents of alleged bullying and hazing by Brooke Point football players.
The Fredericksburg law firm of Parrish, Snead, Franklin, Simpson is representing the school system.
School Board member Irene Egan, whose district includes some Brooke Point families, said she couldn’t comment on the case for legal reasons. But she did say that the Brooke Point administration is making strides to improve the overall athletic program.
“In particular, the safety issue. They were a big contributor to the [athletic] code of conduct,” Egan said.
The School Board recently passed a code of conduct for athletes that is separate from the student code of conduct and lays out expectations and rules for athletes, coaches, parents and school administrators. School officials wouldn’t comment on any changes that have been made involving the football team since the incident last fall.
One 17-year-old former Brooke Point High School football player who recently graduated said that Buzzo had instituted several changes since the incident last fall.
The player, who was on the team for four years, said expectations included looking people in the eye when you speak to them, being on time or facing additional drills and maintaining A’s and B’s in classes.
He said Buzzo has also tried to create a spirit of unity by making the entire team wear the same uniforms instead of various ones that designated different levels of experience or playing time.
“Some people have compared it to the military, which is kind of true,” the former player said. “He’s trying to help not just in sports, but in life.”
Vanessa Remmers: 540.735.1975