Marlon Dorsey accused of beatings

Updated: November 12, 2010, 10:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

JACKSON, Miss. -- Three Murrah High School boys' basketball players have sued their coach and the school system over alleged whippings.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Jackson by attorney Lisa Ross.

Ross contends that a video clip shows a basketball player bent over as a man swings a belt, hitting him three times. The video was made available to media outlets in Jackson.

I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis. I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students.

-- Murrah coach Marlon Dorsey

Ross said the man in the video, which was recorded on a cell phone, is boys' basketball coach Marlon Dorsey.

In the lawsuit, the unnamed players contend they were physically and verbally abused by Dorsey after running plays incorrectly, and were hit by a weight belt that weighed anywhere from five to 10 pounds.

Dorsey, who has admitted to what he calls "paddling" his players, has been on leave since late October. On Oct. 28, school and district officials met with about 30 parents about the matter, but there has been no official word from Jackson Public Schools on Dorsey's status.

A statement from the school district says the personnel matter cannot be discussed "because of employee confidentiality rights."

The lawsuit alleges a violation of the basketball players' constitutional rights, and accuses the defendants of invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

In a statement given to The Clarion-Ledger (Miss.) earlier, Dorsey, in his first year as head coach at Murrah, said: "I took it upon myself to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis. I am deeply remorseful of my actions to help our students."

Corporal punishment has been banned in Jackson Public Schools since 1991, though it is allowed in other parts of the state. District policy says violation of that rule is punishable by disciplinary action such as suspension without pay and termination.

It was very forceful. It wasn't like a spanking, it was a whipping. There's a difference.

-- Jason Hubbard Sr., as told to the Clarion-Ledger (Miss.)

In a letter addressed to parents and others, Dorsey said the punishment was issued for a variety of reasons, including disrespecting teachers, stealing cell phones, leaving campus without permission, being late for class and not following the dress code.

Dorsey, an assistant coach last year, told the newspaper that he has been suspended with pay.

Two parents told the Clarion-Ledger that their sons were abused by Dorsey.

"It was very forceful," Jason Hubbard Sr. told the newspaper, adding that he witnessed his son get hit. "It wasn't like a spanking, it was a whipping. There's a difference."

Hailicia Francis told the Clarion-Ledger that her son, Daniel, a senior, was afraid to say anything about the abuse.

"What hurts me so bad is you have intimidated my child so bad that he couldn't come to either one of us ... I entrusted this man with my child, and this is what you do to me," she said, according to the report.

Some parents have voiced support for Dorsey, including Gary Love, whose son plays for Murrah, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

"He has made them go to study hall, makes them turn in their homework and makes them give weekly reports of their school work," Love said, according to the newspaper. "It's been all positive with one bad incident. He made a huge mistake, but he is human."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.