In October 2016, a jury found the 50-year-old Thomas Joseph Snider guilty of molesting 25 students while he was a boy’s wrestling coach for Torrance High School. The district has now, finally, reached a $31 million settlement with twelve of these students in a negligence lawsuit their families brought against it.
Snider committed his crimes while he was coaching the boys in 1995 and 1996, and again from 2013 to 2015. The victims were all student-athletes on his team between the ages of 13 and 16 years old, according to prosecutors. Thomas molested them under the guise of inspecting them for skin diseases. During these mandatory inspections, Snider would make the victims take off their clothing and would then touch their genitals. He also often watched students shower and would massage them.
During Snider’s trial, a jury deadlocked on charges that he also molested an 11-year-old Madrona Middle School student during a camping trip in 1991. And, a woman had alleged Snider ground the front of his body against hers when she was in his industrial arts class at Madrona Middle School in 1991. She said she brought the matter to school administrators that year and again two years later, in 1993, but that they did nothing. Instead, they ordered her to attend lunchtime counseling and told her that “because Snider was on the other side of campus from her classes, there was nothing they could or should do.”
Before Snider was hired as a wrestling coach, the school’s athletic director had also banned him from entering the wrestling room because he “had been caught bringing students there to roll around and wrestle with,” according to documents filed in the case. At the time, the district notified police, but, again, charges were not filed.
School officials became aware of the skin checks in 2013 after students told opposing team members about them. Snider was eventually apprehended by authorities in April 2015 and has been sentenced to 64 years to life in prison.
Superintendent George W. Mannon released this statement following the district’s settlement this month:
“The safety of all students in the Torrance Unified School District is a primary concern for all of us. We have continually reviewed our efforts to enhance student safety and are committed to continuing our efforts. One of the resources the District now provides every high school student is a list of crisis hotlines on the back of their identification cards. Students can call any of the numbers (anonymously) and get immediate support or help. As always, we encourage students if you See Something, Say Something.
“This settlement spares these students and their families the difficulties of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements. As a result, we believe we have struck a reasonable balance between these objectives.
“Our priority has been to resolve these cases without the need for potentially painful litigation for these families. We know these settlements will provide for the future needs of these students. We believe this will help close this chapter for these families.”