Imani Bell, 16, was at Jonesboro, Georgia Elite Scholars Academy doing conditioning drills with her basketball teammates for a “voluntary” preseason workout on Tuesday (August 13) when she collapsed and died, NBC reports.
Georgia state rules prohibit high school basketball teams from organized practices until Oct. 21, but players can be asked to participate in voluntary workouts.
Justin Miller, the attorney representing the family, believes some serious negligence and possibly coercion were at play in this tragic incident. “Being a former basketball player myself, I know those practices are mandatory, you can’t just not go. They’re for the team to go out and get conditioned for the season, so I’m not sure exactly what the coach told them but yeah she had to be there, that’s our understanding,” he told NBC.
According to reports, the temperature on the day of Imani’s death indicate a high temperature of 100 degrees in Jonesboro, with a heat index reaching a high of between 106 to 108 degrees.
State guidelines say there can be no outdoor practice or workouts when the heat index is more than 92 degrees.
If that is the case, the school, district and administrators could be liable.
Elite Scholars is part of the Clayton County Public Schools District. The district Superintendent, Morcease Beasley, said the following in a statement:
We are very saddened by the loss of one of our students this evening. The school district is here to support the family of the student and all school staff and student body. Our team is working diligently to determine more details relative to this matter.
In additional comments to the media, Miller said:
If the school has given that a thumbs up, then the school is going to have some issues down the road. It’s not good common-sensically, it’s not good legally, the Georgia High School Association doesn’t sanction it, the school district shouldn’t allow it.
It ultimately led to my cousin’s death, so we know it’s ridiculous and we’re going to get all those answers.
Every legal action that we can take, will be taken. All legal recourse is open and on the table. We’re not going to let them brush this under the rug or try to deflect it. This was clearly wrong.