A Baton Rouge judge on Thursday ruled against McKinley High School boys basketball coach Harold Boudreaux, forcing him to relinquish his coaching duties for the rest of this season, just days after the same judge reinstated him.
State District Judge Timothy Kelley’s ruling, reached after a short hearing Thursday afternoon, dissolved the temporary restraining order he’d granted Boudreaux last week.
In court papers, Boudreaux said his sidelining as coach stemmed from complaints from three parents who claimed he was intimidating, name-calling, ridiculing and benching certain players. Boudreaux argued the manner in which action was taken against him violated his constitutional rights and relied on a law that deals with actions students take against other students, not behavior between adults and students.
Boudreaux had sought a permanent injunction that would compel the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to take him back as coach, but on Thursday, he came up short.
Kelley said Boudreaux, who still works as a timeout room moderator at McKinley, would have had more rights if his problems had stemmed from his teaching position; as a coach, though, Boudreaux works under contract and can be terminated from that position at will.
Kelley also rejected Boudreaux’s claim that he lost his federal right to “occupational liberty” when the school system publicly took action against him.
Kelley gave Boudreaux’s attorney, Edmond Jordan, 15 days to refile his petition and try again but cast doubt on whether Boudreaux could make a case strong enough to earn an immediate injunction. Kelley, however, said Boudreaux could file a civil suit seeking damages.
Filing a regular lawsuit rather than again seeking a permanent injunction, however, would mean missing the remainder of McKinley’s current basketball season — there are four games left — and a possible playoff run.
Jordan also argued that taking Boudreaux away from coaching would bring him “irrevocable harm,” particularly because it would mean he would not be able to coach his team during the playoffs.
“When you go the playoffs and it’s one and done, that is something he doesn’t have an opportunity to recapture,” Jordan said.
Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, said the principal and school system administrators will have a meeting soon, before the season concludes, to decide on Boudreaux’s coaching future.
“It’s all very unfortunate,” Rutledge said. “We did not want to bring this up, and we certainly did not want to be in court.”
Jordan said he plans to talk to his client about what to do next. Boudreaux, a former LSU player, declined to comment on Thursday’s decision.
Boudreaux was removed from the bench following an incident that involved the team three weeks ago. Assistant coach Raeshawn Williams served as interim coach for two games but also was disciplined by the school system.
Boudreaux’s removal sparked an outcry among some players and alumni who support him. Former LSU coach Dale Brown was among those who advised Boudreaux to take legal action.
School system officials have been mum throughout about what prompted them to investigate Boudreaux, who was hired a year ago by McKinley High Principal Herman Brister Jr. to take over as head coach. Brister was not part of the investigation or the decision to sideline Boudreaux.
The few details about what happened have emerged in court papers filed by Boudreaux. He noted the school system’s investigation of the parent complaints alleged he violated a state law that bars the shunning or excluding of students from activities. But attorney Jordan argued that law applies only to bullying that students take against other students, not behavior between adult coaches and players.
Jordan, however, never got a chance to make those arguments Thursday.
Judge Kelley zeroed in on Jordan’s key claim to get into court, that Boudreaux’s constitutional right to occupational liberty was violated. Jordan cited a federal case in Illinois where an athletic coach obtained an injunction on that basis.
Kelley countered that in that case, the coach was found to have been harmed by public statements made about him, but the judge didn’t see how that applied to Boudreaux.
Jordan said that, while it was less inflammatory when the school system declared that Boudreaux was disciplined due to a “personnel matter,” it hurt Boudreaux’s future job prospects.
“When they hear it’s a personnel matter, people will hesitate to hire him,” Jordan argued.
Kelley was not persuaded.
“How is that stigmatizing?” the judge asked.