A Macedon couple have taken issue over their daughter’s romantic relationship with one of her coaches. The daughter says they are in the wrong.
The parents of a former standout athlete at Palmyra-Macedon High School have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking $5 million in damages from the school district and two of its former coaches.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District in Rochester by attorney Jeffrey Wicks on behalf of Erie Street residents Michael and Kelly Rodenhouse. It is centered around a romantic relationship between their daughter, Emily Rodenhouse, 18, and Dan Enright, while he was her assistant coach in 2006.
Dan Enright, who is four years older than Emily, and his father, Tom Enright, are the former coaches named as defendants in the court papers. The elder was the head coach of the track team, and his son was the assistant; both were fired several months ago after the relationship with Rodenhouse — a top runner who has broken multiple school records — came to light.
Other defendants in the suit are former district Superintendent Hal Ferguson, High School Principal Barbara Persia and Athletic Director Fred Ciaburri.
“My clients’ and Emily's rights have been violated,” said Wicks, explaining that the suit was filed in federal court because he considers it a civil rights issue. “The ultimate goal here is to protect somebody who was underage against predators who were in a position of power.”
Michael and Kelley Rodenhouse claim in the suit that their daughter’s relationship with the coach has made them afraid for her “well-being with regard to being safe in school and being able to fulfill her academic potential.”
And, they say, they have suffered “emotional distress” because of their damaged relationship with their daughter.
What complicates the situation is the fact that Emily Rodenhouse remains in a relationship with Dan Enright and has severed ties with her parents. She has been living with Dan Enright at his parents’ home — rented from Ciaburri — on Fayette Street in Palmyra since January.
Reached by phone Friday, Emily Rodenhouse said her parents have blown the situation "way out of proportion" and she insists that neither Dan Enright nor his father has ever hurt her or tried to manipulate her in any way, as the suit alleges.
“It is a game of ‘destroy the Enrights,’” Emily Rodenhouse said of her parents' actions. Emily Rodenhouse, who graduated from Pal-Mac this year and is now attending Finger Lakes Community College, said much of the information in the lawsuit is wrong.
The civil suit claims Dan Enright began pursuing Emily Rodenhouse during a June 2006 out-of-town trip for a track meet. The court papers allege that the two had physical relations while he was her coach, at least once on an out-of-town trip and another time on a bus.
Dan Enright was fired by the school board in late November, after Emily's parents went to district officials. Tom Enright, the court papers said, was suspended the next day — though the reason was unclear. He returned to coaching less than a week later, on Dec. 4, 2006. (Neither Dan Enright nor Tom Enright work as teachers.)
Three days later, Michael and Kelly Rodenhouse spoke with Ferguson, who allegedly offered assurances that Dan Enright would not be allowed on school property.
"Ferguson also stated that Tom Enright would not be in contact or coaching Emily Rodenhouse," the suit continued. "Despite this assurance, Tom Enright continued to coach and have contact with Emily."
Furthermore, it claims that Tom Enright allowed his son to continue to "function as 'coach' at various indoor track meets" after he was fired — a claim Tom Enright denies.
“Tom and Dan Enright have created a situation which encourages Emily's isolation from friends and family,” the suit alleges. “For example, on Feb. 12, 2007, Emily refused to accompany the family on a cruise departing Feb. 16, 2007, which had been scheduled since September.”
What’s more, say the Rodenhouses, their daughter has been contacted by coaches and admissions officers from big-name universities like Harvard.
The court papers say: "However, given the present situation in which Tom and Dan Enright are exerting undue influence over Emily, plaintiffs have concerns that Emily, based on her statements, will not be able to pursue a choice in higher education that best suits her abilities and talents, but rather that Emily will be limited in geographic scope to local colleges."
Dan Enright is being represented by Macedon attorney Mark Krause, while the school district is being represented by Rochester attorney Aimee LaFever Koch.
Neither Krause nor Koch could be reached for comment Friday.
Pal-Mac superintendent Robert R. Ike said he could not speak about the case.
Koch filed a motion Oct. 10 calling for the suit's dismissal, claiming it is “frivolous” and has no legal ground because the Rodenhouses cannot seek damages on their daughter's behalf.
Tom Enright said in a telephone interview that as of Friday he had not retained an attorney, but probably will in the days ahead.
“I never ever had any knowledge of Dan seeing Emily when he was coaching, and I certainly was never in conspiracy with him to get her away from her mother,” he said.
Tom Enright said he learned of his son's relationship with Emily after his son was fired from his coaching job. He said the district was right to let his son go for his actions — “Dan was wrong, and he was fired.”
But he still is troubled by his own dismissal, which came in January, after, he said, he allowed Emily Rodenhouse to stay at his home.
“She showed up at my door saying, ‘My mom kicked me out of my house,’” he said. “I would do it over again if a kid shows up and needs a place to stay. I am a human before I’m a coach.”
Emily Rodenhouse, meanwhile, said the Enrights “have a lot of support behind them from the community.”
“Obviously,” she added, “things have been tough.”
Wicks has advised Emily’s parents not to comment on the case while it is pending. In the suit he claims the estrangement of their daughter has caused them “psychological distress and emotional trauma.”
No court date has been set.
-- Daily Messenger