PNW Pioneer

Discrimination lawsuit involving coach, former player proceeds

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A racial discrimination lawsuit between a former Purdue University North Central baseball player and a former PNC baseball head coach is set to move forward following a ruling by a U.S. District Court Judge on March 29.

The player, Jose Resendez, who was a student at PNC and a member of the baseball team during the 2014-15 season, filed a suit in January 2017 against three employees of then-PNC: Shane Prance, baseball head coach; Tom Albano, athletic director; and Chancellor James B. Dworkin.

According to court documents, Resendez asserted an equal protection claim for racial discrimination under 42 U.S. Code § 1983, claiming he was discriminated against because of his Mexican heritage. Resendez also claimed defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Prance.

The claims against Albano and Dworkin were dismissed by Judge Jon DeGuilio, citing that Albano and Dworkin could only be held “liable under 42 U.S. Code § 1983 if they acted ‘intentionally or with deliberate indifference’ to the unlawful discrimination,” which Resendez did not allege, according to court documents.

Prance, who was head coach for PNC baseball for the 2014-16 seasons, was hired as assistant athletic director for facilities and recreational sports (Westville campus) when PUC and PNC unified in 2016. Following unification of the programs, Prance was named assistant coach of PNW baseball – a position he still holds – and Dave Griffin was named head coach.

A series of reported incidents between Prance and Resendez unfolded from March to April 2015, according to court documents. The first incident was on March 19, when, according to Resendez, Prance said, “‘`I don’t want to deal with campus police saying a Mexican with a beard is jumping the fence and causing trouble on the field, [Resendez] that was directed to you.’” Eleven days later, Prance directed more comments toward Resendez, which resulted in a verbal altercation between the two.

On April 14, Prance reported to the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office that someone was firing paintballs at his house. He reported that the car involved belonged to the girlfriend of Resendez. He later reported he saw the car again and was able to identify Resendez as the driver. Police contacted and searched Resendez, who denied involvement, and were unable to locate any paintball gun.

Following the April 14 event, Resendez was called into a meeting with Prance and Albano and was subsequently suspended from the team.

Resendez alleges that the information surrounding the April 14 event was falsely reported to the police and that Prance’s behavior toward him – including his suspension – was racially motivated.

“Prance’s treatment of him was part of a pattern of treating non-white players worse than their white counterparts,” Resendez said, according to the complaint. “He alleges that white players on the team were not disciplined as severely for their misconduct and that Prance did not file false police reports against any white players.”

Albano, Prance and the university declined to comment on the case due to its pending litigation; however, the university provided a statement in response to interview requests.

“PNW prohibits discrimination against any member of the University community on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability or status as a veteran,” the statement read.

DeGuilio concluded, “[t] hus, at least for the pleading stage, the allegations of the false police report, the absence of a basis for the accusation and the alleged racial motivation suffice to allege extreme and outrageous conduct.”

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