Former Ontario High School football coach sues district

A former Ontario High School football coach is suing the school district asserting his constitutional rights were violated. (Enterprise/File)

ONTARIO – The former football coach for Ontario High School is suing the Ontario School District, asserting he was wrongfully terminated and his constitutional rights were violated.

The complaint, filed by Tony Cade, with the U.S. District Court in Pendleton, doesn’t seek a specific amount for the claims, but instead seeks damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.”

Cade claims in his lawsuit “that the district violated his constitutional right by depriving him of his due process rights, making his other teaching position untenable, and created a hostile work environment that ultimately forced his involuntary resignation.”

Cade was hired by the school district as football coach and teacher in June 2019 but resigned as head coach in September after an internal school district investigation asserted that he intimidated and retaliated against some high school athletes.

Cade said he retained his job as a teacher but left the district in December 2019.

The school district investigation – released only after a public records request by the Enterprise – showed the probe was triggered by a complaint made by a parent who said that Cade publicly embarrassed their student at a football game in La Grande.

The five-page district report characterized Cade as someone that did not “possess the professional lens required to protect our students from your behavior.” District leaders said they found a “pattern of intimidation and bullying” by Cade.

The district also accused Cade of “calling players names, such as “jackwagon” and “clowns.”

The complaint said Cade did not dispute he used those names but that “he used them only as typical football coaching motivational language.”

Cade denied the remaining allegations in the school district report.

Cade asserts in the compliant that he “excelled in all respects both as a teacher and a coach.”

In the lawsuit, Cade accuses the school district of drafting a resignation letter without his input and then sending it to local press outlets.

Cade also said the district’s actions “irrevocably damaged” his reputation. The complaint said the Ontario district harassed him and “generated false allegations that he was derelict in his duties as a teacher.”

The complaint also declares Cade’s two children were “harassed” and “overly scrutinized by some teaching staff and awkwardly ignored by others.”

The children later left Ontario High School and transferred to a private school, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Cade “experienced significant hostility from Ontario High School principal Jodi Elizondo.” Elizondo “compelled” Cade to “switch from the teaching position into which he was hired – athletic conditioning – to become a social studies teacher.”

Cade said in the complaint that Elizondo then hired her own son, “who was not certified, to teach athletic conditioning.”

Nicole Albisu, Ontario School District superintendent, said Monday that the district had not yet been served with the complaint.

“Obviously we can’t comment on pending litigation,” said Albisu.

Previous coverage:

In surprise move Ontario’s football coach resigns

New tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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