BALTIMORE — Former Dunbar High School head basketball coach Keith Booth is suing the Baltimore City Public School System in federal court over his February firing.
Lawyers for Booth allege that the school's new principal fired him to protect herself following a January 11 incident on a team bus, where a Dunbar player allegedly sexually touched a female student manager on the team.
In the lawsuit, Booth alleges that he was wrongfully accused and terminated without due process, and as result suffered economic harm, emotional and mental distress, suffering, and anguish.
Booth claims he was on the bus at the time of the alleged incident, but didn't see it happen and wasn't told about it until weeks later by another student manager.
Immediately after being notified of the incident, Booth's lawyers say he called the player into his office to question him about the incident. He reportedly confessed, at which point Booth suspended him from the team. According to their court filing, Booth's lawyers say their client made the Assistant school Principal Lawrence Williams, aware the same day. Williams reportedly told Booth he should write up a report on the incident but corroborate it by talking to the alleged victim.
Attorneys for Booth wrote in court documents, that the alleged victim wasn't seen again until three days later during an after school study hall. In between that time Booth didn't submit a written statement on the incident because he first wanted to speak with the alleged victim.
According to his lawyers, the student manager told Booth she had allowed the alleged incident to happen. Booth reportedly then suspended her from the team also.
After his conversation with the alleged victim, Booth wrote a statement and says he delivered it to the assistant principal later the same day. Booth also called the girl’s mother to notify her of his decision and the alleged incident.
On January 30, the school principal, Yetunde Reeves, met with Booth and Williams about the incident. In their lawsuit, Booth's lawyers accuse Reeves of chastising him for not informing the school administration of the incident.
The lawsuit says Williams admitted in the meeting that he was notified by Booth, and it was him who failed to bring it to Reeves's attention, not Booth.
Booth's attorneys allege that Reeves revealed she'd already found out about the incident two days earlier, when the player had called her directly and admitted to the incident.
The following day, Booth met with Reeves and the parents of the student manager, but left early for a game scheduled later in the day.
Around February 2, Reeves sent Booth a letter disputing that he'd provided details of the incident to Williams, despite his own admission.
Four days later, Daryl Kennedy, the Instructional Leadership Executive Director for Baltimore City Public Schools, called Booth in for a meeting with the principal.
It was during that meeting when Booth's lawyers say he was given a letter that he would “no longer be permitted to report to Baltimore City Public Schools for work, interact with the team or attend Dunbar’s boys basketball games until advised in writing otherwise." Meanwhile, Booth says he was denied a hearing and told that he wasn't fired but rather placed on leave pending an investigation.
While Booth was at the meeting and away from practice, his lawyers say the school athletic director handed out what they called a defamatory letter to the entire team, advising them that Booth would no longer be their coach.
Attorneys for Booth speculate that an email exchange between a Dunbar alum and City Schools CEO, Sonja Santelises may have also played a role in his termination.
The school system hasn't yet responded to the lawsuit.