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An Eagan family of a college runner who died by suicide is suing their daughter's cross-country coach at the time and the Florida university she attended, alleging that he tormented her with demeaning comments in emails and texts about her weight and learning challenges.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Florida last week by Ray and Lynne Pernsteiner, the parents of Julia Pernsteiner, who died in her Jacksonville University dorm room on Nov. 8, 2021. Her death came two months after the coach kicked her off the team, the suit contends.

The lawsuit names as defendants the university and former cross-country coach Ronald E. Grigg Jr., who coached women's track and cross-country at the Division I school from 1998 until his sudden resignation in July.

Messages were left Thursday with the law firms representing the school and Grigg. The defendants have yet to file any response in federal court to the allegations. The university said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.

"For Julia, running was a big part of her life and being part of the team was the biggest, most important thing to her," the Pernsteiners said in joint comments released Friday by their attorney. "Julia used running as a key outlet to help her manage her disabilities."

Her long-term ambition, her parents said, was to earn a degree in social sciences and "someday be an inner-city youth coach."

The suit, filed earlier in state court and then moved to federal court, contends that Pernsteiner's constitutional rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act and under Title IX because of discriminatory acts based on her gender.

Pernsteiner took her problems with the 52-year-old Grigg to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office about 2½ weeks before her death, but no charges were filed.

In a recorded interview with an officer, obtained by former Jacksonville TV reporter Samantha Mathers, Pernsteiner said that Grigg "would make these off-hand statements like asking me, 'Why do I keep you around if you're not smart and you're not fast?' ... He was telling me like, 'Go kill yourself. You're awful.'"

The lawsuit lays out the following sequence of events in the months before her death:

Pernsteiner ran cross-country at Rosemount High School and graduated thanks to an individualized education plan that took into account her dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities.

After high school, she studied and ran for the University of Pikeville in Kentucky before Grigg began recruiting her. She enrolled at Jacksonville for the spring 2021 semester.

School officials recognized Pernsteiner's need for a specialized learning plan but failed to provide her various accommodations, the suit alleges, and her grades suffered. She became depressed and wanted to drop her summer courses, but the school refused.

At the same time, she was training with the cross-country team being led by Grigg under a "toxic atmosphere of humiliation and intimidation [created] by belittling, disparaging and ridiculing runners who did not meet his standards."

Grigg at times "'fat shamed' women runners by mocking them as members of a 'fat club.' He conducted weekly weigh-ins using a 'bod pod' and demanding a [body mass index] of 10% or less. ... All of this prompting eating disorders in certain young, impressionable women on the team."

Being among the less talented runners on the team, Pernsteiner was targeted by Grigg for ridicule, including calling her "the slowest [expletive] runner on the team."

Pernsteiner and others on the team complained about Grigg to school leadership, but they "closed ranks around Grigg and refused to take any action ... because of his success as a track coach."

The suit noted, "As long as Grigg's teams were successful, JU tolerated his outrageous behavior toward team members."

Pernsteiner reached out to her teammates and former JU runners and learned of Grigg making "inappropriate sexual comments and gestures to certain girls on the team."

The suit quoted one runner as saying, "He instigated bullying on the team and created a toxic dynamic. … This led to depression, feeling worthless and unwanted so much so that I gave up my athletic scholarship and transferred to a university closer to home."

Grigg dismissed Pernsteiner from the team in September 2021. She wrote to athletic director Alex Ricker-Gilbert in the following month of being "heartbroken to learn that I am no longer able to be on the track team, because my GPA is too low and I'm not fast enough to compete at this level. My coach knew my times when he recruited me to come to JU and he knew about my grades at UPike."

She pointed out that she's not the slowest team member and that "I have learning disabilities and due to that disability have a hard time following directions. I show up to practice every day on time with a smile."

Pernsteiner's pleas went unanswered and depression soon set in. She turned to various social-services outlets for help in the time leading up to her suicide on Nov. 8, 2021.

"Civility and humanity should be engrained as baseline in coaching and guided by leadership and examples, versus intimidation and fear," the Pernsteiners said through their attorney. Institutions should, and need to be, held accountable to safeguard their students' and athletes' well being."