Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over hazing claim

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit that alleged members of a south Mississippi high school baseball team participated in a hazing ritual that left one teenager hospitalized after being held from behind and punched in the chest.

Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. dismissed the federal claims. He returned the lawsuit to Pearl River County Circuit Court, where the lawsuit was first filed.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/17oXXfv ) that Guirola said in his order that turning the case over to the circuit court will allow the family of Jeffrey Dixon Jr. to pursue a ruling on whether the school defendants have immunity under state law.

The lawsuit alleged that for at least two years, older baseball players at Picayune Memorial High School have routinely singled out younger, smaller players and punched them “violently in the chest” before games.

The lawsuit was filed by the parents of Jeffrey Dixon Jr. The suit says the boy suffered a seizure and was hospitalized in April 19, 2011, allegedly after a hazing ritual before Picayune Memorial played a home game against Lumberton High School. Dixon has since transferred to another school.

Named as defendants by the lawsuit are the Picayune School District, baseball coach Cayne Stockstill, three team members identified only with initials and 10 John Does.

The lawsuit was originally filed Nov. 22, 2012 in Pearl River County Circuit Court.

Picayune is a city of about 10,800 in Pearl River County, about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans. Like many small towns in the South, it’s a place where high school sports is king. The Picayune High football team won the Class 5A state championship in 2011. The baseball team has a history of high-caliber play, and won the state championship in 2002. That year the Maroon Tide was ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s national poll.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com