Nearly a year after an incident in a Ravenwood football practice led to the departure of one coach and the suspension of another, a civil suit has been filed by a former player's family.
The lawsuit, filed through the Williamson County Circuit Court, names Williamson County Board of Education, WCS Superintendent Jason Golden and Ryan Fowler, an NFL veteran who played for the Tennessee Titans and a former Ravenwood football assistant coach, as defendants in the case.
The plaintiff is Scott Holloway, on behalf of himself and his son, T.H., a minor. John Spragens of Spragens Law in Nashville filed the case for Holloway.
They seek $3 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages, per the suit. It also mentions "injunctive relief, including but not limited to requiring the enforcement of a policy protecting student athletes from injuries by coaches, and granting permission for the Plaintiff's other minor children to remain in their existing WCS schools without disruption."
The lawsuit alleges Fowler partook in a practice drill and collided with Holloway's son during the drill, leaving him with a concussion and other lasting ramifications.
On exact charges, it alleges battery on Fowler's behalf and negligent hiring, training and supervision on WCS and Golden's behalf, and negligence on behalf of all named.
In September 2019, veteran sports journalist Paul Kuharsky shared a story about the incident.
“Fowler, an assistant coach, donned shells– light under-pads — and a helmet and took on the role of a defender in drills, something he’s done periodically during his time as an assistant coach to the delight of the team,” he wrote in 2019.
“He filled a gap against a pulling offensive lineman and the two met in a crunching impact that left the player with a concussion.”
One note in the suit is that it alleges Fowler had already been reprimanded and suspended without pay by WCS in 2018 for "violently grabbing a student and slamming him on a table" in what Fowler described as a "game-like" activity.
In response to the incident last fall that prompted the suit, WCS said it had investigated the matter. Ravenwood head football coach Matt Daniels was suspended for two games, and Fowler was suspended initially and then left the program altogether. The suit alleged he was terminated from his role.
“I try to hold myself to the highest of standards in everything that I do. As the leader of the football program, I failed to uphold those standards. I want to take this opportunity to apologize to everyone involved," Daniels said in a statement last fall at the time of his suspension. "I take pride in doing things the right way and will learn from this and grow as a teacher, coach and mentor. I love being with our boys and our staff and I can’t wait to rejoin the team.”
WCS also shared a statement on its findings last fall.
"We believe that our teachers and coaches are among the best in the State, and we hold them to a high standard. This standard includes expectations for good professional judgment at all times," the 2019 statement read from WCS Communications Director Carol Birdsong.
"While other entities may not view coaches actively participating in football practice in a helmet and pads as a violation, that practice is not one that is within our professional expectations in WCS. Our district athletic director will be working with our coaches and school athletic directors to establish protocols for appropriate participation by our coaches during athletic practices."
The suit shares more from the plaintiff's perspective on what happened during and after the practice incident.
It says that Holloway's child, upon contact from Fowler in the practice, "immediately blacked out and lost feeling on the right side of his body."
It also alleges a teammate helped him up, "while Fowler, showing no regard for T.H.'s safety, looked downfield toward the play."
The suit suggests that, in the time to follow, the child in question "felt pain and nausea and was diagnosed soon thereafter by a concussion specialist with a complex concussion." Immediate side effects were alleged to have lasted eight weeks.
The suit alleges the student "experienced ongoing pain, fogginess, memory loss, and disorientation, required numerous/weekly doctor's visits, missed weeks of school, was unable to play football and advance in his football career, and began to struggle academically, abruptly shifting from being an 'A/B' student to a 'D/F' student."
The suit alleges Holloway and his wife had access to the practice hit via a video on preps sports site Hudl for Ravenwood football families, but that the video was soon after removed to the surprise of Holloway.
The civil suit also alleges that the student and family were ostracized socially and that "Head Coach Daniels allowed and encouraged Fowler to be celebrated at the end of the season banquet in front of team players & parents, despite his termination for injuring T.H."
The suit alleges of a "Free Fowler" campaign that was started with signs on school grounds and held up at football games by parents that were never addressed by the school or district leadership.
A key detail in the suit alleges that Fowler continued to have verbal contact with the student in question, asserting his innocence. The suit alleges that he told the student that, in form or substance, "I've watched the video, and I really did not hit you in the head."
The suit alleges the statement caused trauma and embarrassment and that "Ravenwood school administrators, who are Defendants' agents, again failed to protect T.H. at a school function on school property."
The suit alleges the student in question has since transferred "to avoid continued harassment and torment."
The lawsuit reads that it "seeks all compensatory damages available in Tennessee, including economic and non-economic damages. These requested damages include, but are not limited to, medical expenses, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, physical pain and suffering, and emotional pain and suffering," as well as "punitive damages for the acts described herein involving a conscious disregard for the known risk of harm posed to T.H., which constitutes reckless conduct."
On the civil suit mentioned, Birdsong says on behalf of WCS, "We can’t comment on pending litigation."