The Torrance Unified School District has agreed to a $31-million settlement with 25 current and former students who were molested by a wrestling coach, days before the civil case was expected to go to trial.
Thomas Snider, 50, is serving a more than 69-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2016 of molesting teenage wrestlers under the guise of performing skin inspections for ringworm outbreaks.
At the time, prosecutors said Snider would force students between the ages of 13 and 16 to remove their clothing, watched them in the shower and massaged several of them. He was convicted of 29 felony counts of lewd acts with children and eight misdemeanor counts of molestation.
About a month after Snider was found guilty, the victims and their families filed a negligence lawsuit against the school district.
“A lot of these kids have some really severe emotional and psychological issues that stemmed from the abuse,” said Vince Finaldi, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “They’re going to be able to get finality and closure. They’re also going to be able to get the therapy they need.”
Most of the plaintiffs were wrestling team members at Torrance High School from 2013 to 2015. One was a student at Madrona Middle School, where he alleges Snider sodomized him in the 1990s.
Snider began working for the district in 1990 and was assigned to Madrona Middle School, according to the lawsuit. He later taught at Torrance High School, and worked as the wrestling coach there in 1995, 1996 and from 2013 to 2015.
The lawsuit said that one victim reported sexual abuse by Snider to Torrance High School as early as 2004 but administrators did nothing about it. Instead, Snider was allowed to be alone with students in “a separate and secluded environment” without supervision, the lawsuit alleged.
An attorney representing the district did not immediately return a request for comment, but Finaldi said he was pleased that “they did the right thing in the end.”
The district “considered both the exposure they had and the damage that these kids have suffered,” Finaldi said.
Its insurer will cover $27 million and the school district will be on the hook for $4 million, Finaldi said, adding that the district’s attorneys will seek reimbursement through a cross complaint pending against Snider and USA Wrestling. Administrators did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement agreement, he said.