Players from a high school football team packed a Massachusetts courtroom on Thursday in an effort to reinstate their head coach who was recently relieved of his duties.
Coach Anthony Nalen was suspended back in August after Saugus Superintendent of Schools Dr. David DeRuosi Jr. went to police accusing Nalen of hazing a player by allegedly forcing him to wear boxer shorts at practice.
Nalen has denied the accusations and police found no wrongdoing and did not pursue charges. He was in Newburyport Superior Court to seek an injunction to reinstate his head coach position.
In court, students turned out to support their coach.
"That’s our family, he's our family, that guy would do anything for us," said football player Jack Devereux.
"Everyone’s emotional about it, practices aren't the same, nothing's the same it's just, we need the guy back," added Saugus football player Christian Correia.
Nalen still holds his position at Belmonte Middle School.
"We feel 100 percent safe with him out there, everything came back that he did nothing wrong, so I don’t know why they just wouldn’t reinstate him, he did nothing wrong," said Christina Correia, parent of a team member.
Nalen's attorney says the student in question claimed it was his choice to wear boxer brief compression shorts and even sent Nalen a text message after he was suspended.
"It says basically that my mother and I didn't make this complaint, the school told us we had to come in and make this complaint," said attorney Michael Castano.
Hard pressed by the judge to defend the school's termination decision, attorneys for the district claim it was not over hazing but failure to supervise the players appropriately.
"Really the basis of the notice of intent to terminate was not the actions on the football field but the plaintiff’s statement that he wasn't responsible for the students on the football field," said Saugus Public Schools attorney Kevin Smith.
Nalen's attorney claims the whole case stems from a personal vendetta the superintendent and school committee may have against Nalen.