Family filing lawsuit over McKinley High pizza incident


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CANTON – The family of a 17-year-old boy who was forced to eat pepperoni pizza filed a federal lawsuit against the Canton City School District on Wednesday.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is also against CCSD Superintendent Jeff Talbert, former McKinley High School head football coach Marcus Wattley and several other members of the team’s coaching staff.

The lawsuit stems from a May incident in which the family of a McKinley High School football player said the player was forced to eat a pepperoni pizza, then run extra drills as a form of punishment for missing practice for an injury.

The teen, who is of Hebrew Israeli faith, objected to eating the pizza and was eventually allowed to remove the meat. The family’s attorney said the coach threatened to kick the boy off the team and told him his teammates would have to do extra drills if he didn’t eat the pizza.

The incident was caught on video and resulted in the termination of Wattley, along with six McKinley assistant coaches.

The lawsuit, which seeks $400,000 in damages, accuses the defendants of acting, “In bad faith, with actual malice, recklessness, and with wanton, blatant disregard of plaintiffs’ rights,” and also claims they violated the teen’s First Amendment rights.

According to the suit, the student had to enroll in a school more than 100 miles away because of concerns for his safety.