Dunbar basketball great Keith Booth has filed a federal lawsuit against his alma mater saying he was “scapegoated” when he was fired as head boys basketball coach after what he calls school officials’ mishandling of an incident of student sexual misconduct.
Booth, who starred at the University of Maryland and played for the Chicago Bulls during some of the seasons featured in the recent ESPN documentary “The Last Dance,” alleges he was let go in an “extreme and defamatory way” in February, and offers new details of what he says was a fraught first season as the Poets’ coach.
The lawsuit says his dismissal came after administrators learned of an “improper sexual interaction between a Dunbar junior varsity basketball student athlete and a female student manager on a team bus ride" on the way back from the 24th Annual Basketball Academy tournament at Morgan State University.
A letter was released to the Dunbar community at the time saying the incident was under investigation, and Booth’s attorney says in the lawsuit that the letter wrongly implied Booth was at fault.
“Coach Booth will forever live with the stain of Defendants’ false and defamatory letter and denial of his constitutional rights to clear his name," the lawsuit says.
Booth is suing the city school board, schools CEO Sonja Santelises, Dunbar principal Yetunde Reeves and Jerome Jones, the director of labor relations and negotiations for the school system.
School officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Booth says when he learned of the sexual incident, he immediately suspended the student athlete and informed Dunbar’s assistant principal, “who for days, along with Defendant Reeves, did nothing with this information.”
“Indeed, three days after Coach Booth informed the Assistant Principal, the junior varsity-basketball student athlete called Defendant Reeves, the Principal, directly and admitted to having touched the female. In the face of this confession, Defendant Reeves stood mute,” the lawsuit alleges.
Booth said he was directed to write a statement regarding the incident, then was fired by Reeves. Booth said Jones, the human relations director, later told him he was only “on leave,” but that reports of Booth’s dismissal leaked out.
The lawsuit further alleges the firing was “spurred on by some powerful alumni who were concerned more about past allegiances than the development of future generations and consistent with her past history.”
This article will be updated.
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