Coaches hid concussions, lawsuit says

USA Today

March 30, 2020

A former athletic trainer for a public school district claims she was pushed out of her job because coaches were hiding injuries from her, including possible concussions.

Jaclyn Penson of West Chesterfield recently filed a lawsuit against the Vermont Windham Southeast Supervisory Union School District in U.S. District Court in Rutland, Vt., claiming wrongful termination. Penson had been a trainer at Brattleboro Union High School for three years before she claims she was forced to resign.

Penson’s lawsuit, prepared by attorney Norman Watts, singles out hockey coach Eric Liberdoni as one of the coaches who refused to let Penson treat players with head injuries. Her lawsuit cites one instance in which she says she determined a player suffered a likely concussion during a fight, but Liberdoni prevented her from treating that player.

“Liberdoni verbally attacked (Penson), creating a hostile environment that made it difficult to implement concussion protocol and therefore prevent further injury to the athlete,” the lawsuit states.

Penson’s lawsuit also alleges that Liberdoni threatened and intimidated his players to keep them from seeking treatment from Penson. She also claims she raised concerns about Liberdoni’s use of smelling salts for players suffering apparent head injuries. Smelling salts are a mixture of ammonia, water and alcohol, used to restore or stimulate a person’s senses, the lawsuit states. Smelling salts are also toxic and can cause other health concerns, according to Penson’s lawsuit.

She also states that Athletic Director Chris Sawyer physically blocked her from lacrosse players so that she was unable to treat them, the lawsuit states.

Penson’s lawsuit states that parents had complained about the way Liberdoni treated the students, and she made complaints to the administration, but to no avail.

“When plaintiff finally realized that school authorities had no intention of curtailing Liberdoni’s threats and abuse towards students or his intimidations towards her, she resigned,” the lawsuit states.

Penson’s lawsuit is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Liberdoni posted on Twitter in recent days, “Telling a lie over and over again doesn’t eventually make it true.” He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Windham Southeast Supervisory Union School District Superintendent Lyle Holiday said Monday she is unable to speak on the lawsuit.

“I cannot make any comment at all,” she said.

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