Parents of former Rosemount High School graduate sue Jacksonville University after daughter died by suicide

The parents of a former Rosemount High School graduate who died by suicide have filed a federal lawsuit against Jacksonville University, alleging that she was threatened and bullied by her cross country coach, Ronald E. Grigg Jr.

Ray and Lynne Pernsteiner, the parents of Julia Pernsteiner, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Florida. Julia died by suicide in her dorm room on Nov. 8, 2021, according to the lawsuit. She was 23.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to lawyers listed in court records as representing Grigg Jr. for a statement or comment and is awaiting a response.

Jacksonville University sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS this statement:

The students, faculty, and staff of Jacksonville University continue to mourn Julia’s tragic death and we sympathize with the Pernsteiner family for their loss. Per University policy, we do not comment on pending litigation.

Spokesperson for Jacksonville University

The lawsuit alleges Pernsteiner’s constitutional rights were violated, both under Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the civil complaint, Pernsteiner had dyslexia and ADHD, and had an individualized education plan (IEP). She initially attended a different university and ran on the school’s cross country team, and her “athletic activities helped her manage and cope with her learning disabilities.”

The lawsuit contends that in the spring of 2021, Grigg Jr. recruited Pernsteiner to run at Jacksonville University.

“Julia was thrilled and excited to begin a new chapter in her life in what she was led to believe would be a welcoming, understanding and supportive community,” the lawsuit notes. It adds that Jacksonville University approved Pernsteiner’s IEP application for assistance with disability support services.

It’s alleged that the university “failed and refused to comply” with the IEP, and Pernsteiner struggled academically. “Julia became depressed about her lack of academic support and attempted to drop her Summer 2021 courses but JU refused,” the lawsuit states.

It’s also alleged that her coach “was oppressive, threatening, bullying, condescending and demeaning to many of the young women on the team” and “created a toxic atmosphere of humiliation and intimidation by belittling, disparaging and ridiculing runners who did not meet his standards.”

Court records state Pernsteiner was dismissed from the team in September 2021 and reached out to the university for help academically but did not get help. The complaint included an email Pernsteiner sent the university, which read in part, “I am not the slowest one on the team. I understand that he thinks that I’m not learning and that I can be difficult to work with. I have learning disabilities and due to that disability have a hard time following directions.”

“When her pleas for help went unanswered Julia’s frustration spiraled into desperation and depression. She turned to social services at Mayo Clinic, the Safe Sport Helpline and the Women’s Center for help,” the complaint says.

After Pernsteiner died by suicide, the lawsuit alleges Jacksonville University launched an investigation into the conduct of Grigg Jr. However, it goes on to say the results of that investigation were never shared with Ray and Lynne Pernsteiner, and in July of 2022, the university announced the coach was no longer employed with the school.

The lawsuit says that in the university’s announcement about Grigg’s departure, the university wrote that all of their “coaches and staff also will complete additional mandatory training involving mental health issues … including … body image, nutrition, bullying, and building a healthy, supportive team culture.”

Jacksonville University has yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

Here is a list of suicide prevention and mental health resources:

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests you:

  • Ask questions about whether the individual is having suicidal thoughts.
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Seek help from a medical or mental health professional. If it is an emergency situation, take the person to a hospital.
  • Remove any objects from a person’s home that could be potentially used in a suicide.
  • Do not leave the person alone, if possible, until help is available.

Read the full lawsuit below or by clicking here: