Lacrosse coach fired for players’ boozy trip sues school for making him ‘scapegoat’

Julia Marsh

New York Post

26th May 2017

The lacrosse coach of an elite Brooklyn private school says in a new wrongful termination lawsuit that he was fired while the rich kids who used fake IDs to buy booze during a Florida training trip received slaps on the wrist. Prep coach James Brooks Sweet — who calls himself “one of the greatest lacrosse players of ” in court papers — says he was scapegoated by administrators who wanted to keep wealthy parents as donors. “Poly Prep immediately and strategically targeted Brooks as the ‘scapegoat’ and the ‘fall guy’ to take the ‘heat’ off the student violators, whose parents are of such high regard in Poly Prep’s eyes that Poly Prep did not take any significant action against them,” the Manhattan Supreme Court suit says.

Brooks Sweet says the students were barred from attending prom for “criminal violations of purchasing and drinking alcohol,” while he lost his job and his reputation. Many of the students “are the sons of wealthy and high profile parents and large financial donors to Poly Prep who have been disciplined by Poly Prep for repeated past drug and or alcohol school violations,” Brooks Sweet says in the suit. “Instead of disciplining the student violators, Poly Prep chose, rather, to destroy and defame a good and loyal man’s legacy and his career that brought a New York State Lacrosse Championship to Poly,” he gripes in court papers.

The coach says he had no idea the players were slipping out of their rooms at the Disney Wide World of Sports Hotel and using fake IDs to by liquor before returning to a beach area at the resort to party. The kids caroused for six consecutive nights in March, drawing as many as 50 student revelers from other schools, sources told The Post last month. Brooks Sweet only learned about the underage debauchery when school administrators called him into a meeting in April, after word of the parties spread around campus.

The coach, a former World Lacrosse Champion who led Poly Prep to a state title in 2011, says he and his assistants did routine bed checks and thought the players were sleeping soundly after long days of rigorous training. Before the spring break trip, none of the administrators had suggested Brooks Sweet “stay up all night walking the hotel hallways,” the suit says. But when they learned about the parties, headmaster Audris Barzdukas told Brooks Sweet that at his previous school a teacher would sleep in the hotel hallway to prevent students from sneaking out of their rooms after curfew, according to court papers.

Brooks Sweet says in the suit it is “truly ludicrous” to expect coaches who were putting in days in the Florida heat to go without a good night’s rest. The Nassau County resident says his ouster is especially unfair because his hiring drove up enrollment of students from wealthy families who were happy to pay the $ tuition so their sons could play “under the tutelage of one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time. ” He’s suing the school and individual administrators including the headmaster for his job back, plus unspecified money damages.



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