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Woman Sues New Canaan Lacrosse Over Fairness

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Claudia Harris says she’s only interested in making it fair for girls and reducing the bullying in the New Canaan Lacrosse Association.

That’s why she has filed a lawsuit against the organization, where she was a coach for four years and a board member for two years. The civil case, filed in Stamford Superior Court, claims that the association's board did not provide equal opportunities for girls and ignored her concerns about bullying while forcing her out in the summer of 2010. The New Canaan Lacrosse Association and several board members are named as defendants.

“I tried to implement changes and talked with other coaches,” said Harris, who coached girls in the program, including her two daughters. “I tried before I was forced out of the organization.”

In the lawsuit, Claudia Harris and her husband Roger accuse the New Canaan Lacrosse Association of a disparity in the level of opportunity available to girls as compared with boys. She also said the association “engaged in discriminatory behavior” in offering more practice time to boys, more merchandise to boys and clinics for high school-age boys that were not available to girls in the same age group.

She also claimed that bullying was an issue, saying that another coach, whom she did not name, had an agenda of reducing playing time for some girls in favor of his daughter and her friends. Harris said that when she approached the board with her concerns, she was ignored and was told in August 2010 that she would be removed as a coach. According to the court complaint, Harris says she was told by former President Jenkins Marshall that if she didn't "go quietly" from her coaching position, she would lose her place on the association's board.

“They decided to ignore the concerns and did not take steps to investigate,” Harris said.

She is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement to her position on the New Canaan Lacrosse Association board and her coaching position, implementation of an accountability protocol to ensure equal treatment of the girls’ lacrosse program and any other relief that may be required. She said she has tried to reach a settlement with the group for about a year to get her coaching and board spots back.

“It’s not about money. It’s about making the program better,” she said.

New Canaan Lacrosse Association President Garth Appelt referred all questions to attorney Bob Noonan.

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