Household of beating sufferer in Woburn soccer case sues faculty, metropolis officers

The Boston Globe

The Coucelos household is searching for $750,000, or a higher quantity if warranted by the proof at trial, in response to their criticism. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Workers

The mother and father of a younger soccer participant who was pummeled by a mob of teammates in a locker room at Woburn Memorial Excessive Faculty in 2021 filed a federal lawsuit Thursday towards metropolis and college officers, alleging they permitted a poisonous tradition within the soccer program that promoted bullying and violence.

Jeanny and Kevin Coucelos, whose son Johnathan was a 14-year-old freshman on the time, asserted that Woburn authorities triggered further hurt, together with extreme emotional misery, by failing to adequately reply to the assault, in response to their criticism in US District Courtroom in Boston.

“With the submitting of this criticism, the Coucelos household takes the following step in searching for justice for the collection of outrageous assaults on an harmless younger man at Woburn Memorial Excessive Faculty and to carry these in cost accountable for the harm carried out,” mentioned their lawyer Peter Hahn of the OneLaw agency in Newton.

Woburn faculty and metropolis officers didn’t reply to requests for remark.

5 soccer gamers have been charged in Lowell Juvenile Courtroom after the locker room ambush, together with one who faces an extra rely of indecent assault and battery for allegedly groping Johnathan Coucelos’ genitals. Two different college students have been charged as juveniles with assaulting him at college after the locker room episode.

A number of of the scholars have been sentenced to group service. The costs towards the participant who faces the indecent assault and battery rely are pending. That pupil has been allowed to proceed taking part in for the Woburn soccer crew, which opens its season Friday at house towards Longmeadow.

Jonathan Coucelos, his mother and father, and Hahn have criticized Woburn officers for allegedly failing to carry any adults accountable for the assault and its aftermath.

“I wish to see all people who was concerned held answerable for what they did and for attempting to cowl all of it up,” Johnathan Coucelos mentioned Thursday by his father.

Woburn’s head soccer coach Jack Belcher stays on the job, as does athletic director Jim Duran. Specialists in student-athlete security say coaches are accountable for monitoring and defending gamers of their packages, and athletic administrators are accountable for guaranteeing coaches carry out these duties. Belcher and Duran have mentioned they weren’t current through the assault.

“I would like the directors and coaches held accountable for his or her actions,’’ Kevin Coucelos mentioned. “These coaches ought to have been lengthy gone. As an alternative, directors are dragging their ft, placing different children prone to getting bullied.”

The Woburn principal on the time of the assault, Jessica Callanan, later departed for Studying Memorial Excessive Faculty. Additionally gone is Chase Andrews, a volunteer assistant soccer coach who Johnathan Coucelos’ mother and father allege didn’t correctly reply when Coucelos reported the beating to him.

Belcher, Duran, Callanan, and Andrews are amongst these named as defendants within the lawsuit, as are Woburn Colleges Superintendent Matthew Crowley, the Woburn Faculty Committee, and Mayor Scott Galvin.

A federally mandated Title IX evaluation of the case carried out by an unbiased investigator, earlier than a closing evaluation by a college official, cited statements from Andrews and Woburn’s head freshman coach Chris Scichilone that they weren’t formally educated about hazing earlier than Johnathan Coucelos was accosted.

The evaluation discovered that “the crew assault was deliberate, organized, and executed by a considerable variety of sophomore gamers.” One participant mentioned he punched Coucelos a number of occasions after the sophomores — “like 30 children” — determined “to beat up Johnathan.”

The household’s lawsuit alleges that Woburn’s coaches didn’t obtain the right coaching in bullying and hazing till after the assault.

Woburn officers commissioned a separate unbiased investigation of the case by former state secretary of public security Daniel Bennett, however they’ve refused to publicly launch Bennett’s closing report. As an alternative, Crowley issued an announcement final yr stating that the investigation concluded “the district typically had correct insurance policies and procedures in place and well timed responded to the incident by creating applicable security plans for the scholar in line with nationwide requirements.”

Hahn mentioned Woburn officers have made no try and settle the case since Coucelos’ mother and father notified the town 19 months in the past of their intent to sue. They’re searching for $750,000, “or a higher quantity if warranted by the proof at trial,” in response to their criticism.

The beating has upended Johnathan Coucelos’ life, his mother and father mentioned. He has withdrawn from the Woburn faculty and suffered excessive emotional misery. The criticism states that he has been recognized with melancholy, nervousness, and post-traumatic stress dysfunction stemming from the expertise.

Belcher, who has but to publicly deal with the incident, has been Woburn’s head coach since 2017. The lawsuit states that no member of his workers was supervising the crew on the time of the assault and that no coach intervened, though a coach’s workplace was instantly throughout the corridor.

The lawsuit cites two different circumstances of alleged abuse in Belcher’s program. In 2018, Belcher allegedly witnessed an older participant kick a youthful one so laborious within the head that the youthful participant grew to become instantly unwell, but the coach took no motion. One other participant, who graduated in 2021, mentioned that as a freshman he was bullied and crushed by older teammates, in response to the criticism.

“Coach Belcher had inspired stronger gamers to toughen up the weaker ones,” the lawsuit alleges. It states the mother and father of the participant who was kicked in 2017 “spoke to Coach Belcher and reported the conduct to Principal Callanan, however nothing modified.”