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Court to decide student’s soccer eligibility

Family alleges bullying from former school due to Phil Atsas’ lawsuit

YOUNGSTOWN — Former Campbell High School soccer coach Phil Atsas won his criminal case Feb. 20 when a jury in Campbell Municipal Court found him not guilty of theft by deception.

Now, a lawsuit Atsas filed Oct. 11 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on behalf of his son Petros, 17, says the criminal case took a toll on the Atsas family, partly because of the involvement of the superintendent.

The police investigation began in November 2019 after Campbell Superintendent Matthew Bowen reported his concerns to police. Atsas also is a teacher in the school district.

The family has moved all four of its children from Campbell schools to Catholic schools. Youngstown Cardinal Mooney High School notified Petros on Feb. 28 it was accepting him to enter Mooney for his senior year, according to court filings.

In March, however, Mooney informed Petros that he might have eligibility issues related to playing Mooney soccer because of Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer rules.

At the time, Phil Atsas and his son filed legal action against the OHSAA Oct. 11, Petros had played soccer for Mooney for half of the season. The OHSAA informed him he would be ineligible to play the rest of the season and the playoffs because he had transferred.

The family reached out to the OHSAA July 7 and asked the organization to review his situation. The family sought an exception to the transfer rules because of what the filing called a “hostile environment” Petros lived under at Campbell Memorial High School.

“How would you like to be a student in a school district that tried to in a very real sense ruin your father’s, and your family’s and your life with false and baseless charges?” the filing states.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Scott Essad, alleges that the OHSAA did practically no followup after being notified of the situation.

Essad acknowledges that the exception to the transfer rule involving harassment involves harassment by one student against another. But Essad argued that there should be a rule protecting a student from harassment from school administrators.

On Oct. 13, Magistrate Tim Welsh of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court issued a temporary restraining order allowing Petros Atsas to continue to play soccer for Mooney until a further order of the court.

Welsh held a hearing Oct. 27 to hear testimony in the case, and the parties filed briefs to state their position.

A final decision in the case is pending.

Prior to the hearing, the OHSAA filed a brief that pointed out that the Atsas family had filed no reports of bullying with the school district, and there was no investigation underaken of the allegations.

The OHSAA notified the Atsas family by letter July 14 that the OHSAA could not render a ruling on the family’s request for an exception to the transfer rules because of there being “no detailed information and documentation” of the allegations.

The filing notes that Petros Atsas sat out five games until the magistrate issued the temporary retraining order.

Meanwhile, Mooney’s boys soccer team has won several times in the playoffs, winning its most recent game Oct. 31, allowing it to advance to the regional semifinals. Petros scored one of his team’s 11 goals in the Oct. 31 game.

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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