Parents sue school, former Piedra Vista wrestling coach

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A local family filed a lawsuit last week against the Farmington Municipal School District and several employees in connection to allegations made earlier this year against former Piedra Vista wrestling coach Levi Stout.

Doneva and Brian Littlefield claim in their lawsuit, filed in Aztec District Court on Dec. 23, that their 14-year-old son's academic and athletic success was negatively impacted after he was forced to wrestle under a false name by Stout in December 2013 at a tournament in Reno, Nev.

The Littlefields further claim that their own reputation in the community was tarnished after Stout was dismissed as head coach.

Stout was first accused in March of allowing ineligible students to wrestle at the Sierra Nevada Classic in December 2013 after the Farmington Municipal School District decided not to renew his coaching contract.

The school issued a letter accusing Stout of seven infractions, including ineligible students wrestling at the Sierra Nevada Classic, students traveling in a vehicle not approved by the district and students traveling with parents other than their own.

Some parents and wrestlers protested the decision and held rallies in support of Stout, who led the Piedra Vista High School wrestling team to four consecutive state championships between 2011 and 2014.

On April 1, the New Mexico Activities Association suspended Stout from coaching for 180 days. He appealed the decision, but it was upheld at a hearing held on June 5.

Stout said in an interview that he was not aware of the lawsuit, and he did not wish to comment. He confirmed that he will be able to coach wrestling again on April 1, 2015.

The Littlefields said their son, an avid and accomplished eighth-grade wrestler, told them while he was at the tournament on Dec. 27, 2013, that Stout wanted him to wrestle using the name of another high school student — a violation of NMAA rules and regulations.

They said in the lawsuit they were concerned about Stout's decision, but did not want to upset him because of his prominence in the local wrestling community.

In February 2014, three parents told Piedra Vista athletic director Kelly Thur that Littlefield's son violated NMAA rules by competing in the tournament, according to the lawsuit.

Thul investigated and reported his findings to the NMAA on March 19. Thur then determined that the Littlefields' son would not be allowed to compete in sanctioned NMAA athletic competitions for 180 school days as punishment, the lawsuit states.

Thur did not respond to a request for comment.

The Littlefields appealed Thur's decision, and an NMAA appeal board unanimously reversed it on April 29, according to the lawsuit.

A report detailing Thur's findings was included as evidence in the lawsuit.

The parents not only told Thur that Littlefield's son competed illegally, but also claimed that Stout bullied students, mismanaged booster club funds, misclassified kids competing at tournaments and adjusted weights of certain wrestlers, including his stepsons, to increase their chances of success, according to Thur's report.

The parents' names were redacted from the report.

Doneva and Brian Littlefield claim they were "ostracized and villainized" by the school's wrestling community after Stout's contract was not renewed.

The harassment resulted in their two businesses, not named in the complaint, being shut down in the summer of 2014, the complaint states.

They further moved their son to a different school district with a less-competitive and less-skilled wrestling program as a result of unspecified "harassment," according to the lawsuit.

The Littlefields are suing the school, the district, Thur and Stout for negligence, negligent supervision, fraud and deceit, defamation, causing emotional distress, and violations of due process.

They seek unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

The Littlefields are being represented in their lawsuit by Taos-based attorney Justin Lea. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither the school nor the district has not filed a response to the lawsuit, and school officials could not be reached for comment.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.