College football player with Down syndrome sues school where he made history

Caden Cox made history at Hocking College in 2021 when he became the first known person with Down syndrome to play and score in a college football game. Now he is suing the junior college, claiming he was discriminated against, harassed and assaulted.

In a lawsuit filed by his mother, Mari Cox, on Thursday, Mr Cox accused a former supervisor of the student recreation center where Mr Cox worked of “disability discrimination, physical assault and persistent verbal harassment”.

Mr. Cox burst onto the national sports scene in the fall of 2021, after scoring a field goal in the third quarter and went on to kick three more this season, earning a feature on ESPN. A few months later, he created a clothing collection with the Jake Max brand, in the colors of the school.

“They said he couldn’t even go to college and look where he was,” Mari Cox told the outlet at the time.

Mr. Cox also worked while attending Hocking College, a community college in Nelsonville, Ohio, where the lawsuit alleges he was harassed and assaulted by his boss. His supervisor, Matthew Kmosko, is among the named defendants in the lawsuit, along with school president Betty Young, the board of trustees and five unnamed college employees.

Mr Kmosko, who resigned, was convicted in January of threatening Mr Cox and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The college and board said in an emailed statement that they would not comment on ongoing investigations or pending litigation, but would “cooperate with officials.”

Dr. Young also declined to comment on the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Southern Ohio. “I am pleased that Hocking College can provide Caden with an opportunity to be a successful student and student-athlete and now a graduate,” she said in an email, adding that the school ” remains committed to all of our students.”

Mr Kmosko repeatedly used ‘derogatory slurs against people with Down syndrome’, degraded Mr Cox’s abilities, once demanded to go through his phone and put his hand on Mr Cox inappropriately, according to the suit, and he was subjected to further harassment. complaints.

In July 2021 and again in January 2022, Ms. Cox, who also works at Hocking College, sent concerns about Mr. Kmosko to school officials, but his behavior only got worse, according to the suit. culminating with Mr. Kmosko following Mr. Cox into a bathroom and threatening him with a knife.

Mr. Cox was granted a protective order against Mr. Kmosko in May 2022, but the harassment left him with anxiety that limited his ability to get to campus, according to the lawsuit, and he grew upset every time that he saw a red car similar to that of Mr. Kmosko.

The lawsuit blames “the willful indifference of Dr. Y-oung and other members of Hocking’s staff” for the trauma that Mr. Cox suffered at the hands of Mr. Kmosko, for which it seeks compensatory damages and punitive.

He also accuses the college of retaliation, saying it denied Mr. Cox the two graduation awards he had been promised after lawyers representing the Cox family delivered a letter to the administration of the school in early December detailing their allegations.

After graduating from Hocking College last year, Mr. Cox took part in a football internship at Texas A&M. He expects to attend Ohio State University in the fall, for a certificate program for students with disabilities.

“The last thing we wanted was a trial. This college has been an important part of our lives,” Ms. Cox said in a statement shared by an attorney.

“Caden had a great experience before this happened. We just felt like our complaints to the administrators were going nowhere,” Ms Cox wrote. “We really hope this will lead to a change in the way bullying is dealt with for all vulnerable students in the school.”

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