The University of Missouri filed a motion this week calling for a court ordered mental evaluation of a former track coach taking the school to court for alleged racial discrimination.
In 2018, Carjay Lyles filed a suit accusing MU track coach Brett Halter, who’s white, of using racist rhetoric, including referring to Black athletes and employees as “you people.” The university Board of Curators and associate athletic director for compliance Mitzi Clayton are also named as defendants.
Carjay Lyles claims his three years as a track coach at the University of Missouri has had a lasting effect on his mental health. (Photo: Mississippi State University)
The “intolerable working conditions” got to be too much for Lyles, who says he developed an anxiety disorder and has suffered daily panic attacks since his “discharge” from the college in 2017, according to the complaint.
He also claims his repeated complaints to MU officials about Halter fell on deaf ears.
The university is now arguing that because Lyles placed his “emotional condition” at issue, distress it says “goes beyond” the “garden variety” of stress folks would typically experience under such circumstances, that he should have to undergo a mental exam. Additionally, MU wants Lyles to turn over both his medical and employment records.
“In order to understand and fully appreciate the bases for his numerous claims, defendants are entitled to a professional examination of [Lyles] to get an understanding of the nature, extent, and causes of his emotional impairment,” University attorney Colly Durley wrote.
In his lawsuit, Lyles alleges that Halter and the defendants “instituted a continuous practice of exhibiting discriminatory and demeaning behavior toward black athletes and staff members, including Mr. (Lyles).” It further claims that Halter once asked Lyles to lay grass at his home.
When the plaintiff declined, the lawsuit claims Halter replied: “I live at MKT and KT Trail and if I have one more K, you sure won’t be coming because three Ks in a row, there won’t be any of you coming.”
The complaint also points to the coach’s alleged volatile behavior toward Lyles at a 2016 staff meeting, in which he yelled at him and kicked over a trash can after Lyles made a suggestion.
Brittany Mehl, an attorney for Lyles, told Durley in a Sept. 9 email that her client wouldn’t agree to a mental exam because he only described “garden variety” distress in his complaint. The ex-track coach also refused to hand over his medical history, citing doctor-patient confidentiality, she said.
Lyles’ complaint seeks back pay, lost benefits, front pay, compensatory damages for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Lyles is currently an assistant track coach at Mississippi State University.
The University of Missouri didn’t return requests for comment.