The campus of Hawkeye Community College in Black Hawk County. (Photo by Hawkeye Community College.)
A fired soccer coach for Hawkeye Community College is suing the school in federal court, claiming he was wrongly accused of being a drug dealer.
The coach’s wife, meanwhile, has prevailed in state court where she won a judicial order forcing the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to hear her claim that she was fired from her job at Hawkeye due to discrimination by association.
Court records indicate the Waterloo community college fired former men’s and women’s soccer coach Robert Carroll in 2020, and also fired his wife, Maren, from her job as head athletic trainer due to her “involvement in attempting to stop the discrimination against her husband.”
In a newly filed federal lawsuit against the school, the former coach alleges that due to his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, school officials wrongly suspected he was using cocaine. Carroll says that due to his disorder, he fidgeted and swore, and that his medication resulted in decreased appetite, headache, dry mouth, nausea, anxiety, weight loss and increased sweating.
He claims that in February 2020, during a meeting with Athletic Director Ethan Crawford, Executive Director of Human Services Susan Colletta Hauber and Interim Vice President of Hawkeye Community College Dione Somerville, he was accused of using cocaine.
Carroll alleges that he underwent a drug screening that same day, and while the lawsuit doesn’t state what the results of the screening were, it alleges that his driving privileges for the school were revoked at about that same time.
The lawsuit claims that a month after the meeting, Carroll’s doctor wrote a letter to the college explaining that the side effects of Carroll’s medication could be mistaken for symptoms of illicit drug use.
As a part of a subsequent investigation at Hawkeye, the lawsuit claims, school officials interviewed students about allegations of drug use and “encouraged them to make statements against” Carroll. Through those interviews, students and faculty at the college learned that Carroll was “unfairly suspected of being a drug user and drug dealer,” the lawsuit alleges.
After Carroll returned from a vacation in March 2020, the school fired him, accusing him of attempting to buy narcotics from a student, failing to perform his job duties, failing to supervise practices, entering the living quarters of student athletes without permission, and failing to cooperate fully with the investigation into his alleged drug use.
The lawsuit alleges that after Leo Driscoll and Colleen Ridings took over Carroll’s coaching duties, Driscoll told at least two students and soccer players that Carroll was a drug dealer in the United Kingdom.
In May 2020, Carroll requested a post-termination and name-clearing hearing, which was held in August 2020 during a meeting of the school’s board of trustees. At that meeting, Carroll alleges, he was denied the chance to ask questions of Hauber and was barred from presenting evidence in his defense.
Carroll’s lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages for defamation and breach of contract. The school has yet to file a response, and a spokesperson for the school could not be reached for comment.
Carroll’s wife, meanwhile, has succeeded in her battle to have the Iowa Civil Rights Commission hear her complaint that she was fired from her job as the school’s head athletic trainer after she voiced support for her husband.
Maren Carroll claimed the discrimination against both her and her husband was based on her husband’s national origin – he is British – and that her dismissal was triggered by her efforts to “clear her husband’s name” and “because she was married to him.”
Her lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court, alleged that her husband “was said to have been inappropriate with students and/or players,” and alleged that other coaches had, on multiple occasions, engaged in “sexual relations with students or players” and still are employed by the school.
In a ruling earlier this week, Polk County District Judge Celene Gogerty rejected the commission’s position that while the Iowa Civil Rights Act protects citizens from “associative discrimination,” Maren Carroll had failed to make a connection between her firing and her husband’s national origin.
Gogerty remanded the matter back to the commission for further proceedings.
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