Family of paralyzed student sues school

August 18, 2009 3:56:08 PM PDT
A lawsuit accuses athletic coaches at one of Chicago's most prestigious private schools of hazing a student and contributing to an accident that left him paralyzed.The incident happened at St. Ignatius College Prep back in 2007.

Chris Connolly was a junior at the school taking part in a water polo practice. Now he's a quadriplegic.

The lawsuit does not suggest there was a practice of hazing all new members of St. Ignatius' water polo team, just one student in particular. Click here to read the filed complaint.

Chris Connolly was just a few days into practice for the St. Ignatius varsity water polo team. It's a prestigious squad at an elite school.

"My first semester was really difficult with swimming. I was nicknamed 'flounder' by one of the coaches and made fun of," said Chris.

Chris Connolly and his family allege a coach and assistant coach encouraged students to verbally and physically taunt Connolly.

On February 28, 2007, their lawsuit against the school alleges a coach ordered team members to pelt Connolly with kickboards and other items while he stood beside the pool.

"On this particular day, one of coaches...told kids to go out and get snowballs to throw at him as well. So he's dodging this stuff and one coach yells at him to get in the pool," said Steven Greenberger, attorney.

That's when Chris Connolly jumped in and collided with the bottom of the pool causing serious injury. He's been in a wheelchair ever since.

"He was panicking essentially. Stuff was being thrown at him, the coach is yelling to get in the pool and he just dove in as quickly as he could," said Greenberger.

"I've seen my strapping young athletic son reduced to," said Helen Connolly, mother.

"You send your child off to school or to practice and you just expect you'll pick 'em up and they'll be fine. You get a call and your whole life changes," said Dennis Connolly, father.

"Everything is just 100 times harder," said Chris.

Chris Connolly is now 19 years old, attending a different school but still struggling with physical and emotional injuries.

"I was embarrassed. I felt very out of place in a wheelchair. I still feel very out of place in a wheelchair but I'm starting to talk a little more to other kids," said Chris.

No one from St. Ignatius returned ABC7's call for comment or to say whether the coaches named in the lawsuit are still at the school.

Among other things, the lawsuit seeks reimbursement for Chris' medical bills and an undisclosed amount in damages.


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