The parents of a disabled student-athlete who committed suicide have filed a lawsuit against Jacksonville University and its former track coach who they say ridiculed and harassed her before cutting her from the cross-country team he had recruited her for.
Julia Pernsteiner, 23, was found dead in her dorm in 2021, two months after Ron Grigg cut her from the team, the Florida Times-Union reports.
Pernsteiner’s parents, Ray and Lynne Pernsteiner, say their daughter had learning disabilities that affected her reading, writing, spelling, and math skills and that the university didn’t provide her with the services she needed to succeed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Further, the university allowed Grigg to torment and humiliate their daughter, according the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month.
“Teammates recall Grigg taking a special satisfaction in humiliating Julia, referring to her as ‘retarded,’ the slowest f****** runner on the team’ and unable to ‘wipe your own a**,” the suit says. “Julia, already struggling academically, now found that the sport she loved and found comfort in was the source of her coach’s targeted ridicule and harassment.”
The lawsuit said that Grigg frequently “fat-shamed” women runners and that his behavior “prompted eating disorders in certain young, impressionable women on the team.” More than one student complained to the university about the coach, but “the school closed ranks around Grigg and refused to take any action,” the lawsuit says.
Grigg resigned last July after the school said it had received “concerning information” about his treatment of student athletes.
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[Featured image: Julia Pernsteiner/Fourth Judicial Circuit Court]