CANTON, Ohio (WJW)– The family of a 17-year-old boy who was forced to eat pepperoni pizza filed a federal lawsuit against the Canton City School District.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Wednesday, is also against Superintendent Jeff Talbert, former head football coach Marcus Wattley and several other members of the coaching staff.
The lawsuit stems from a May incident where the family of a McKinley High School football player said the boy was forced to eat a pizza, then run extra drills as a form of punishment for missing practice for an injury.
The teen, who is of the Hebrew Israeli faith, objected to eating the pepperoni pizza and was eventually allowed to pick off the meat. The family’s attorney said the coach threatened to kick the boy off the team and told him his teammates would have to do extra drills if he didn’t eat the pizza.
The ordeal was caught on video and resulted in the termination of Wattley, along with six assistant McKinley High School football coaches.
The lawsuit, which seeks more than $10 million in damages, accuses the defendants of acting, “In bad faith, with actual malice, recklessness, and with wanton, blatant disregard of plaintiffs’ rights.” It also said they violated the teen’s First Amendment rights.
According to the suit, the student, who was a rising star on the football team, had to enroll in a school more than 100 miles away because of concerns for his safety.
“The board will address the claims, which it contends are without merit, through the legal process,” Talbert said in a statement on Thursday.