By: Savannah Smith | 08-16-2017 | News
Photo credit: Dima Smaglov | Dreamstime

High Schooler Sues Baseball Coach $150,000 for Benching him

A former Los Altos High School student and baseball player felt so disadvantaged and aggrieved by his coach’s decision to bench him that he and his parents are suing the former coach and the school district for $150,000.

The player’s suit states that the school’s head varsity baseball coach, Gabriel Lopez repeatedly refused to field in 17-year-old Robbie Lopez. As a result, the teenage Lopez was not able to play all throughout his senior year. The two are not related, though they share the same last name. The suit claims that the benching of the young Lopez constituted a pattern of “harassment and bullying.”

Lopez and his parents are seeking $150,000 or more from the school and head coach.

Among the incidents cited in the suit is the annual alumni game where the varsity team is pitted against former Los Altos players in a friendly match. The suit says that “the game is supposed to be a fun day; especially for the seniors on the team”. The suit further argues that every senior player on the team played on the said alumni game except for Robbie Lopez.

The boy’s father, Robert Lopez II, also revealed in the suit that the coach’s decision to bench his son through out the season was nothing but a vindictive move after his son complained to the district’s athletic director after the coach and the player engaged in a disagreement over a fund-raising game.

The suit said Robbie Lopez was not permitted by the coach to join the team’s regular practice following his non-participation in the fund-raising game. Robbie Lopez spoke to the school about the incident. It is illegal in California to require students to fund-raise in order to participate in public school activities.

Also crucial in the lawsuit is the claim of the Lopez family that their son Robbie had been a starter for the varsity team for three years prior to Gabbie Lopez’s hiring and taking over the coaching duties for the team.

Robbie’s lawyer, Michael Ponce, argued that the long period of relegating Robbie to the bench for the entire season “is an abuse of coach’s discretion.” Ponce called it a “targeted situation” rather than a “standard case “of a coach using his “own judgment.” Ponce said the coach’s actions are intentional which targeted Robbie specifically.

Ponce also referred to a recent case in South Carolina where a student-cheerleader and her father won a $100,000 judgment after they sued her coach for bullying her and making derogatory comments about the girl’s private body parts, causing other students to laugh and make fun of her. Ponce said that what happened to his client, Robbie Lopez, was “even more egregious” than the South Carolina case.

Ponce did not establish or argue that the coach insulted or gave derogatory comments to his client. The lawsuit also does not mention any remarks of such offensive nature muttered by the coach to the player.

Both head baseball coach Gabriel Lopez and school representatives refused to comment on the lawsuit.


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