The family of a Florida college track athlete is suing her school after she committed suicide, alleging her cruel coach subjected her to a two-year campaign of intimidation.
Julia Pernsteiner, 23, who had a learning disability, was cruelly taunted by former Jacksonville University track coach Ron Grigg before cutting her off the team without warning, according to a lawsuit.
Her parents allege that the university subsequently ignored her pleas for help after her withdrawal from the team in September 2021, leading her to commit suicide two months later.
The athlete ran track as an outlet to help her deal with her academic studies, which she struggled with as her disability affected her reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
But Grigg was said to take a “particular satisfaction” in humiliating her, often referring to her as “retarded.”
Julia Pernsteiner, 23, was found dead in her bedroom of an apparent suicide on November 8, 2021.
Former Jacksonville University track and field coach Ron Grigg cruelly taunted the 23-year-old before cutting her off the team without warning.
Teammates recalled that coach Ron Grigg, pictured here, took “particular satisfaction” bullying Pernsteiner, who suffered from a learning disability.
In shocking court documents, teammates recalled the abuse Grigg subjected the 23-year-old after she joined the college track team.
Julia endured brutal harassment from Grigg for nearly two years, including ridiculing her to her face and behind her back, in text messages and emails, according to the lawsuit.
‘Ron Grigg (took) particular satisfaction in humiliating Julia, referring to her as ‘retarded’, ‘the slowest fucking runner on the team’ and ‘incapable of wiping her butt’, the lawsuit says.
Remaining on the team as an outlet to help her manage her academics, Pernsteiner attempted to seek help from her teammates, who alleged similar abuse by Grigg.
They revealed in court files that he was persistently “oppressive, threatening, intimidating, condescending and demeaning to many of the young women on the team.”
But after Pernsteiner contacted former athletes at the school to share their accounts of Griggs’ behavior with school officials, the university later said it could not substantiate the allegations when it opened an investigation.
Despite being employed by the university since 1998, numerous members of the track team have painted a disturbing picture of his conduct while managing the team.
“Despite knowledge of Grigg’s scandalous and illegal behavior toward women on his teams, (Jacksonville University) acquiesced and condoned that conduct while Grigg was coaching winning teams,” the lawsuit states.
After two years of taunting by Grigg, Pernsteiner was kicked off the team in September 2021, without being told why.
Pernsteiner was said to be relying on his place on the team to take care of his academic studies.
The 23-year-old athlete “fell into despair and depression” after the university ignored her pleas for help.
Pernsteiner contacted other former members of his track team to make complaints about Grigg’s behavior to university officials, with many others reporting that he had bullied women on the team.
The athlete suffered from a learning disability that affected her academic studies, including her ability to read, write and spell
In a plea for help, he emailed the university’s athletic director in October 2021, begging him to allow him back on the team as he relies on athletic academic help to do well.
‘I just don’t know where to go from here. I would like to stay and work to improve my grades. I’m just not capable of doing it myself. I am seeking advice on how to proceed,” he said in the email, which was included in the lawsuit.
The athlete’s cries for help were completely ignored by the faculty. After no one responded to his email, Pernsteiner “sent into a spiral of despair and depression.”
On November 8, 2021, the 23-year-old was found dead in her bedroom from an apparent suicide.
“For 22 months before her death, Julia suffered from pain, mental anguish, panic attacks, fear, and depression,” the lawsuit alleges.
Before his tragic death, Pernsteiner had tried to expose Grigg’s behavior by contacting the local media.
Local freelance journalist Samantha Mathers said she had spoken to Pernsteiner several times in late October 2021, just weeks before she took her own life.
While investigating the claims, Mathers said he was shocked by the news of the 23-year-old’s death when Pernsteiner’s mother later reached out.
“As soon as he said, ‘I’m just trying to get answers about my daughter,’ and explained to me, I knew exactly what he was talking about, and my heart dropped,” she said. FirstCoastNews.
Mathers added that he corresponded with a former track and field coach who knew Grigg, who told him he had “seen a lot of the things” the athletes were saying.
‘Body shaming, anxiety, athletes had a lot of anxiety.
“She said she witnessed her female athletes have this anxiety about their weight that no other female athlete at the school had.”
Grigg subsequently resigned from his position following the scandal, with the university saying it was providing “additional mandatory training” for its coaches.
In an emailed statement to Fox News in response to the lawsuit, Jacksonville University said: “The students, faculty and staff of Jacksonville University continue to mourn the tragic death of Julia and we stand in solidarity with the Pernsteiner family for her loss”.
“Per University policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.”