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Pa. prep school disputes lawsuit claiming racist recruiting

Associated Press / June 3, 2009
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PITTSBURGH - One of the nation's oldest prep schools yesterday disputed a lawsuit brought by a former basketball coach who says he was forced to quit after complaining that the school told him he was recruiting too many blacks.

Anthony Cheatham sued The Kiski School, an all-boys institution founded in 1888, on Monday in US District Court in Pittsburgh. He seeks unspecified damages for mental anguish, loss of income, and humiliation, and wants his job back.

But the school said that race is not the issue, that Cheatham was recruiting from the wrong league and that he quit voluntarily.

The school has about 200 students in grades 9 through 12. Students come from 15 countries, and about one-third are of color, headmaster Christopher Brueningsen said.

Cheatham was hired as a consultant in the spring with the expectation that he would become an employee in July, Brueningsen said yesterday. He soon began recruiting.

According to Cheatham's suit, school officials became "uneasy" when the races of many of his recruits became public. Administrators told him that "the school could not tolerate a basketball team with 5 African American starters," the suit said.

Brueningsen disputed that anyone would have said that.

"I never had a single conversation with [him] where any concerns about race or ethnicity were raised," he said. "The charges are just so inconsistent with the facts."

Instead, Brueningsen said, officials told Cheatham he had to follow regulations of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League.

The school is not a league member but follows its regulations governing recruiting because its teams mostly play schools in the league, Brueningsen said.