Education

Former Clovis cheerleaders say coach bullied them. So they filed $1.3 million lawsuit

Former Clovis High cheerleaders are suing the district and their ex-coach for negligence, emotional distress and questionable bookkeeping, asking for over $1.3 million in damages.
Former Clovis High cheerleaders are suing the district and their ex-coach for negligence, emotional distress and questionable bookkeeping, asking for over $1.3 million in damages. Fresno Bee file

Former Clovis High cheerleaders are suing the district and their ex-coach for negligence, emotional distress and questionable bookkeeping, asking for over $1.3 million in damages.

A lawsuit filed this month by three Clovis High alumni and their mothers accuses Pep and Cheer Director Stacey Schiro of “abuse, intimidation, bullying, harassment, and malicious conduct” in her dealings with team members that resulted in physical and emotional injuries to the plaintiffs. The lawsuit also claims that the team’s finances had not been updated nor made accurate in many years.

The plaintiffs claim to have suffered anxiety attacks, migraines and flare-ups of medical conditions as a result of Schiro’s actions, to the point that one of them had to delay her collegiate career for a year, the lawsuit says.

Schiro did not return a request for comment. Clovis Unified School District spokeswoman Kelly Avants said in a statement that the district had previously responded to a complaint made to the district by the plaintiffs.

“Any allegation made to the district of inappropriate conduct by an employee is investigated thoroughly and acted upon if warranted. The allegations laid out in this lawsuit, if found to have merit, are deeply concerning to us given the high standards we have for employee interaction with students and families,” Avants said. “It is our expectation that anyone working with our students serve as models of professionalism and good character. That being the case, we will be interested to see if new information is provided through this suit that calls for action by the District.”

Plaintiffs Tammi Cooper, Melodi Cooper, Laura Burke, Rachel Burke, Cindy Promnitz and Maddie Promnitz and their attorneys did not return requests for comment.

Court documents describe several alleged instances in which Schiro “inflicted emotional and mental abuse, anxiety, severe stress and depression” on CHS students by publicly and privately berating them, as well as barring some students from the teams or from serving on leadership positions within the teams. The lawsuit claims she also prevented the Pep team from competing at nationals.

The lawsuit further claims that the district failed to properly investigate these incidents when the parents of the students came forward, and that the district stopped communicating about any potential action in 2018. A letter included in the lawsuit from Clovis Unified dated Jan. 25 2018 said the district was still investigating.

“The District is currently investigating the allegations that you made in your correspondence, but that investigation has not been completed. The audit, on the other hand, has been completed,” CUSD attorney Karen Samman said in the letter. “The District expects to complete the investigation and provide to you a written response to your correspondence by mid-February.”

In response to some of the complaints, Clovis High administrators Denver Stairs and Stacy Lazarri offered to allow the plaintiffs to use their offices as a safe space if they felt targeted by Schiro, the lawsuit says.

“Plaintiff Maddie ran from Schiro to Ms. Lazarri’s office (safe room) in effort to hide from Schiro and avoid her abuse, intimidation, bullying harassment, and malicious conduct. Schiro attempted to call Ms. Lazarri multiple times...while Maddie was in the safe room,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Lazarri informed Maddie that it was Schiro calling and that she was not going to answer Schiro’ s persistent phone calls while Maddie was in her office seeking refuge and protection.”

The three plaintiffs were arbitrarily targeted by Schiro, the lawsuit claims, though other team members also had run-ins with Schiro too. One team member not part of the lawsuit was kicked off the team during an event and asked to “immediately take off her uniform,” the lawsuit says.

“Schiro arbitrarily and vindictively picks her “favorite” girls and grants them privileges others are denied,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs say they suffered an array of physical and mental injuries as a result of Schiro’s actions, including “emotional stress and anxiety, and physical symptoms... caused by Schiro’s conduct including, but not limited to, panic attacks, migraines stress-induced headaches, and flare-ups of stress-induced medical conditions resulting in substantial physical and mental injuries.”

They’re asking for a collective $600,000 for physical injuries, $300,000 for “stolen opportunities” and $450,000 in punitive damages.

The latter are meant to “deter future CUSD Administrators and employees from both directing this kind of abuse, bullying, harassment and malicious conduct at students, and to teach CUSD and CHS that it is inappropriate to drag their heels when notified of employee misconduct and bury employee misconduct against students under the carpet.”

Aleksandra Appleton covers schools for the Fresno Bee. She grew up in Fresno before attending UC San Diego and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.


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