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When a grown man like Norwalk High’s state champion basketball coach Frederick English is accused in federal court of physically abusing a teen-age girl, the lawsuit alone can be a punishment. But Senior U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Bree Burns, by granting English’s summary judgment Jan. 11, lifted a cloud. She said the charges of pinching, light slapping and ridicule did not rise to the level of “extreme or outrageous” behavior that shocked the conscience of the court. Edwards’ defense lawyer, Steven M. Frederick of Stamford, Conn.’s Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin & Kuriansky said his client is relieved and heartened by Burns’ clear ruling in his client’s favor. He said English was in the process of reclaiming a distinguished reputation, one crowned by his Norwalk High girls’ basketball team winning the 2000 state championship. Unfortunately, said Frederick, “you can’t unring the bell.” The lawyer for former student Melissa Norris, Matthew C. Mason of Wilton, Conn.’s Gregory and Adams, did not return repeated calls for comment. Burns found that alleged verbal assaults by English on Norris did not rise to the level of a legal cause of action under Connecticut law, and that her federal claim under 42 U.S.C. � 1983 was not supported by allegations of truly shocking behavior. While a student at Connecticut’s Norwalk High, Norris had English as her physical education teacher in freshman, sophomore and senior years between 1995 and 1999. She’s currently attending the University of Connecticut. When she was a ninth grader, she and English would “slap each other and English would pinch her sides,” Burns wrote, characterizing the contact as “asexual.” Burns wrote that, “English was a physical coach, as is common in any sport played today at any level, and testified that he had patted, held, pinched and lightly slapped all of his students, both male and female, during the thirty years of his coaching tenure.” English chided Norris, saying she was getting slower in proportion to the rate her chest was growing. He made off-color remarks, saying he’d been teaching since before his students “were stains on the sheets.” On one occasion, the coach pulled her ponytail and threatened to “take her under the basket in the gymnasium and beat her.” He also allegedly struck her on the back of the knees with a stick during a softball game, according to the complaint seeking $5 million in damages. By Norris’ own deposition testimony, there were explanations. She said English thought she “was a baby” who cried easily and needed to be “toughened up.” She admitted being late for practices and games and agreed English had a right to punish such infractions.

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