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Teen Sues School District for $13.5M Over Pizza Incident

Teen alleges his football coaches forced him to eat a pepperoni pizza in violation of his religion
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2022 9:07 AM CST
Updated Jan 8, 2022 12:05 PM CST
Teen Sues Coaches, Alleging They Forced Him to Eat Pork
He was allowed to remove the pepperoni, but residue remained.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – An Ohio teen who was forced to eat an entire pizza containing pepperoni remnants—in violation of his beliefs as a Hebrew Israelite, which prohibits the consumption of pork—has sued as promised. In a suit filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the now 18-year-old, identified only as KW, and his parents are seeking $13.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a jury trial. Fox8 reports they're suing the Canton City School District, Superintendent Jeff Talbert, former head coach Marcus Wattley, and other assistant coaches.

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They say that as punishment for missing a weights session over a shoulder injury, the then 17-year-old's football coaches forced him to eat the pepperoni pizza as his teammates ran drills; he was ultimately allowed to remove the pepperoni, but residue remained. They allege the coaches' "antisemitic and shameful" behavior caused the teen "substantial permanent injury." KW's lawyer tells the Cleveland Jewish News the teen will need counseling for the "rest of his life," due to the experience. The Washington Post reports the teen ended up switching to a school more than 100 miles out of Canton for his wellbeing. Six of the former coaches have also sued for defamation, and they say the story isn't what it seems.

They allege the teen had been displaying a poor attitude and reduced effort, and communicated to them that he didn't feel like attending the weights workout. They say they wanted to demonstrate to him that "it’s easy to be selfish behind people’s backs, but not so easy when others are watching," hence they instructed him to eat the pizza in front of the team. WKYC reports the other players had to run laps for 20 minutes while holding 45-pound weights while the teen sat in the center of the gym and consumed the pizza. Per the suit, they say they were unaware of his beliefs at the time and that he thanked them for the lesson after consuming the pizza. They also say he didn't actually consume pork residue as he removed both the pepperoni and the cheese. (Read more lawsuit stories.)

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