Albemarle County Schools takes action against heat a year after lawsuit

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ALBEMARLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — Last fall, Albemarle County Schools was faced with a lawsuit due to a soccer player nearly dying of extreme heat illness after a summer practice.

In July 2017, Patrick Clancy came home from Monticello High School’s soccer practice barely able to walk. He had spent two hours on a turf field on the second day of a heat advisory. It is a day his mom, Emily Clancy, said she will never forget. She said when she saw him, she knew immediately something was wrong.

"I put him in the tub and he's getting worse,” said Clancy. “His fingers were was traveling up and he...couldn't breathe. He was trying."

Patrick ran out of water at practice and had stopped sweating. Emily said if she had not rushed him to the hospital when she did, he could have died from what doctors said was “exertional heat illness.”

"Patrick would have laid down and you're a ticking time bomb,” said Clancy. “His body had stopped trying to cool itself off."

Emily said they were not going to file a lawsuit against Albemarle County Schools until the athletic director of Monticello High School, Matthew Pearman, and soccer coach at the time, Stuart Pierson, did not take responsibility for not following guidelines.

"I really expected them to do the right thing,” said Clancy. “I said 'Just come out and say, we messed up. We didn't have water, and shade and trainers. And we didn't do anything that we were supposed to do but we will make sure this never happens again.' They didn't do that. Instead, they blamed us and my sons for what happened to them."

The lawsuit is currently still pending. However, since Emily brought her concerns to the county, the Health Advisory Board has set new mandatory guidelines. The athletic director of Western Albemarle High School, Steve Heon, said athletic trainers are now required to be at all summer practices: a rule that started this summer.

"Our trainer is on-site whenever we have a summer practice to monitor weather conditions throughout their practice from the start,” said Heon.

Heon said they also make sure coaches and athletes know signs of heat illness.

"Our coaches have to take an online course each year,” said Heon. “Our coaches aren't allowed to be out coaching unless they handle their educational responsibilities."

Emily said she wants to make sure all schools are following these same precautions.

"It's all about accountability,” said Emily. “And if that doesn't happen then bad things will continue to happen."

Patrick has left Monticello High School and has not played soccer on a team since his heat illness. Emily said he has never fully recovered.

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