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, alleging he was discriminated against, harassed, and assaulted.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday by his mother, Mary Cox, Mr. Cox accused a former supervisor at the Student Recreation Center where Mr. Cox worked with “discrimination based on disability, physical abuse, and persistent verbal harassment.”
Mr. Cox, 23, burst onto the national sports scene in the fall of 2021, after he hit a field goal in the third quarter and went on to kick three more goals this season, earning a feature on ESPN. Months later, he creates clothes group With Jake Max branding, featuring school colors.
“They said he couldn’t even go to college and look where he was,” Mary Cox he told the network on time.
Mr. Cox also worked while attending Hawking College, a community college in Nelsonville, Ohio, where the suit alleges he was harassed and assaulted by his boss. His supervisor, Matthew Kamsko, was among the defendants named in the suit, along with Betty Young, the school’s president, a board of trustees and five unnamed college employees.
Mr Kmosko, who resigned, was found guilty in January of threatening Mr Cox and sentenced to 30 days in prison.
The college and board of trustees said in an emailed statement that they would not comment on ongoing investigations or pending lawsuits, but would “cooperate with those responsible.”
Dr. Young also declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is filed in the US District Court for Southern Ohio. “I am thrilled that Hawking College can provide an opportunity for Kaden to be a successful student, student-athlete and now alumni,” she said in an email, adding that the school “remains committed to all of our students.”
Mr. Kmoscow repeatedly used “derogatory insults to individuals with Down syndrome,” degrading Mr. Cox’s abilities, once demanding that he go through his phone and inappropriately place a hand on Mr. Cox, and the suit alleges he was subjected to harassment and other complaints.
In July 2021 and again in January 2022, Ms. Cox, who also works at Hocking College, forwarded concerns about Mr. Kmosko to school officials, but his behavior only worsened, the suit says, culminating with Mr. Kmosko following Mr. Cox to the bathroom. Threatening him with a knife.
Mr. Cox obtained an order of protection against Mr. Kmosko in May 2022, but the harassment left him anxious which limited his ability to go to campus, the suit says, and he would get upset every time he saw a red car identical to Mr. Kmosko’s.
The lawsuit blames the “willful indifference” of Dr. Young and other Hocking employees for trauma suffered by Mr. Cox from Mr. Kmosko, who is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
It also accuses the college of retaliation, saying it denied Mr Cox two graduation awards he had been promised after attorneys representing Cox’s family delivered a letter to the school’s administration in early December detailing their allegations.
After graduating from Hocking College last year, Mr. Cox has been involved in coaching football at Texas A&M University. 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 lawsuit. This college has been a huge 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 officials went nowhere,” Ms. Cox wrote. “We really hope this leads to a change in how we address harassment for all at-risk students in the school.”
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