High School Sports

Former Templeton High School football player alleges negligence in lawsuit against school district

dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A lawsuit filed almost two years ago against the Templeton Unified School District by a former student is inching closer to a trial date, the lawyer for Tristan Riva believes, after a tentative ruling Tuesday by San Luis Obispo County Judge Ginger Garrett denied the district’s motions to dismiss the suit.

Riva, a former Templeton High School football player, is suing the district and others affiliated with the school for damages from emotional and physical harm suffered stemming from a 2013 workout called the “Iron Man.” He claims that the school’s former athletic director Paul Jones pressured him to complete the workout as punishment, violating state educational code pertaining to corporal punishment.

Garrett denied the school district’s motions to strike claims for damages and attorney’s fees in Tuesday’s hearing at a San Luis Obispo County courthouse in Paso Robles.

The school district claims the workout was optional and never happened.

The lawsuit claims that Jones gave Riva the option to complete the workout as a form of punishment for riding in a district-owned golf cart without permission. Riva, who said he had a foot injury at the time of the workout, says that though he was given an option to serve detention or sit out a game, there was an implied pressure for football players to complete the workout, which he says included various exercises such as sprints and core workouts.

As a result, Riva — who had yet to turn 18 years old at the time — claims to have “suffered physically and emotionally” around October 2013.

Templeton Unified countered by saying its internal investigation found that Riva never participated in the workout. The district also claims Jones left school early to travel with the girls volleyball team to Santa Ynez on the day Riva allegedly completed the workout and could not have been around, according to court documents. Riva later said in a district hearing that he could not remember the exact day the workout occurred, but his lawyer said he has statements from two other football players who said they completed the workout with him.

Templeton lawyer Clayton Hall did not comment due to the ongoing litigation when contacted by The Tribune. Jones, who now serves as the athletic director at Orange Lutheran Academy, has not returned Tribune calls seeking comment. Riva and his family were not made available for comment.

Templeton’s internal investigation also discovered that Riva did not live in the school district, and the district later voted to remove him from Templeton High School halfway through his senior year. The suit claims that the residency finding by the district was retaliation for the complaint by Riva, who was originally attending Templeton under an Interdistrict Transfer because his family lived in Atascadero.

Riva’s attorney Mitchell Ducey said he and his client have been looking to settle out of court, but the school district is fighting back and refuses to settle.

Ducey believes — based on previous cases he’s been involved in — that Garrett will issue a ruling in the coming days that could result in a trial date or another case management conference.

Both sides can appeal the ruling.

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