GONZALES — A former Donaldsonville High School strength and conditioning coach, whose résumé includes stints at LSU and Tulane University, “duped” one of his students into taking a regimen of steroids in a bid by the coach to regain his status in the coaching community, a new lawsuit alleges.
The parents of the Donaldsonville High student claim the twice-daily pills former coach Curtis Tsuruda directed the teen to take caused their son to suffer emotional problems, including impulsiveness, aggressiveness and depression.
The parents sued Tsuruda and the Ascension Parish School Board on Tuesday in 23rd Judicial District Court for future medical expenses, mental anguish and other damages.
In addition to coaching, Tsuruda, 57, of LaPlace, was a physical education teacher at Donaldsonville High and was arrested April 1 after the allegations involving the then 16-year-old came to light. He worked at the high school for about eight months, beginning in August 2013.
Tsuruda, who is free on bail of $40,000, is facing charges of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles, distribution of methandienone, distribution of an illegal drug to a student and violating state drug laws on school property. He has pleaded not guilty.
The lawsuit does not identify the parents, identifies their son only as “Child C” and says their attorneys will identify their names under seal.
According to the suit, Tsuruda, who was head coach of the school’s power lifting team, told the teen that he wanted him to take the “protein pills” to improve the teen’s and the power-lifting team’s competitiveness at a state competition.
The suit claims the alleged “protein supplements” were methandienone.
“When Child C discovered that Curtis Tsuruda had duped him into taking illegal drugs, Child C was embarrassed, humiliated and felt betrayed by Curtis Tsuruda,” the suit alleges.
Methandienone is an anabolic steroid, a synthetically produced variant of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The family’s attorney, Andre Gauthier, said his client is a 4.0 grade-point average honor student at Donaldsonville High who was taught to respect his elders and follow the advice of his superiors.
“So this has really sent shock waves across the bow,” Gauthier said.
In addition to the allegations against Tsuruda, the suit accuses the School Board of failing to conduct an adequate background check before Tsuruda was hired and of failing to monitor him once he was on the job.
The lawsuit details Tsuruda’s résumé as a director or assistant director of strength and conditioning at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, LSU and Tulane between 1992 and 2005. He then left the college ranks to join East St. John High School and then Donaldsonville High School in August 2013.
“That’s not the way it usually works in the athletic world,” Gauthier said. “The athletes are always trying to move up to the next level, and the coaches are always moving up to the next level.”
The suit alleges Tsuruda often left his East St. John High experience off his résumé posted on the Internet and questions why.
St. John the Baptist Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George said Wednesday he has only been with the system since July 2013 and does not know Tsuruda but would ask his human resources staff to check on Tsuruda’s history with the school.
Ascension Parish schools spokesman Johnnie Balfantz said Wednesday he cannot comment on pending litigation.
Tsuruda’s employment with the Ascension school system was terminated April 9, but Balfantz was unable to say if that meant Tsuruda was fired or resigned.
Tsuruda and his criminal defense attorney, J. Price McNamara, did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
A trial date has not been set in Tsuruda’s criminal case, but a judge set a Feb. 2 deadline for him to decide whether to go to trial or accept a guilty plea.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.