Football player with Down syndrome sues Ohio community college for disability discrimination

NELSONVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who was the first person with Down syndrome to play and score a point in a college football game is now suing the school, its president and several staffers.

Caden Cox alleges he was the target of disability discrimination, retaliation and assault during his time at Hocking College. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and wants changes made to the community college’s anti-harassment policies.

The college in Nelsonville declined comment, saying it does not discuss ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit alleges that when Cox worked at the school's student recreation center, his supervisor began “persistent derogatory, discriminatory, and abusive verbal harassment” that was reported to college administrators. Other student-workers there also complained about being harassed by the supervisor, according to the lawsuit.

The harassment culminated in May 2022, according to the lawsuit, with the supervisor threatening Cox with a knife in the student center bathroom. The supervisor resigned and was later convicted in municipal court on menacing charges stemming from the incident.

Cox and his parents filed a written complaint last December with college President Betty Young, claiming the school failed to conduct a background check on the supervisor before he was hired and didn't protect Cox from harassment and discrimination despite complaints he and other students made.

Young then retaliated against Cox by removing him as the recipient of two graduation awards he had been selected to receive, according to the lawsuit.

Cox garnered national attention in 2021 when he kicked an extra point for Hocking and became the first person with Down syndrome to play and score a point in an NCAA or National Junior College Athletic Association college football game.