Mom sues to get son back on Hinsdale South basketball team

The mother of a suburban high school basketball player is suing the school district and several of its staff members in federal court, alleging her son was cut from the squad this fall in retaliation for his bullying complaint against a previous coach.

Erin Savage filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of her son, Brendan, a senior at Hinsdale South High School.

On Monday, she filed a motion asking for a preliminary injunction to make the school put her son back on the team immediately, as the basketball season has begun. The school reinstated Brendan to the team Tuesday.

Savage and several members of his family attended Tuesday's home victory over Glenbard South. Savage did not wear a uniform but sat behind the bench and cheered on his teammates.

Erin Savage said the school district did not provide any details about whether her son would play in Friday's game against Downers Grove South.

"(The school) never contacted me (today)," Erin Savage said after Tuesday's game. "My son told me Brendan wasn't allowed to sit on the bench. They made it (that way) by putting other kids there, so he wouldn't have a seat. Brendan texted the coach around four or five (this afternoon) and said he "would like to sit on the bench and support my team' but the coach never responded. I assume he will go to practice tomorrow. He's allowed to. All we can do is hope they can figure it out."

According to court documents, Brendan played on the school's varsity team as a sophomore and junior and earned all-conference honors both years.

But last school year, he filed a complaint with school officials alleging that the team's former head coach, Michael Moretti, had bullied and humiliated him.

District officials investigated, and determined there wasn't sufficient evidence to support the bullying accusations. However, they did find that the coach acted in ways not in keeping with district standards, according to a letter exhibited in the lawsuit, and removed Moretti from the position.

He was replaced by Michael Belcaster, who is a "close personal friend" of the former coach, the suit states.

Earlier this month, the suit states, Brendan took part in tryouts for the basketball team. On Nov. 7, Belcaster posted a list of students who had made the team, and Brendan wasn't on it.

The suit names Acting Hinsdale Township High School District 86 Superintendent Linda Yohnke, Hinsdale South Principal Patrick Hardy, the school board, Belcaster and several other district employees as defendants.

Several students at Tuesday's home game donned "We want Savage" black T-shirts and hoodies, while Brendan's older brother, Danny, wore a No. 33 jersey with his last name on the back. Danny Savage, a former standout in football and water polo at Hinsdale South who played water polo at Iona University, sat two rows behind the Hinsdale South bench on Tuesday night.

After the game, Belcaster was approached by two reporters near the entrance to the gymnasium. When asked several times about how he would work Brendan into the rotation, Belcaster did not address the subject and said he wouldn't hear anything before walking away.

Sitting halfway up the main bleachers during Tuesday's game, Erin Savage admitted she remains perplexed by the entire ordeal.

She said the team had a team meeting Tuesday afternoon without her son.

"The kids on the team are saying they won't pass him the ball," Erin Savage said. "These are kids who have come up to my house and been friends with Brendan in years past. I don't understand what they are being told ... We feel we got this victory, but I don't want to put Brendan in a position where he loses his mind again. We've been down that path."

- Susan Sarkauskas is a Daily Herald staff writer. Bob Narang is a correspondent.

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