Crime & Justice

Torrance Unified sued by students, former students alleging sex abuse by coach

Attorneys announced a civil lawsuit Thursday in Downtown Los Angeles against Torrance Unified School District in a child molestation case involving a high school wrestling coach. Pictured from left to right: Attorneys Ron Labriola, John Manly and Senior Paralegal Daisy Cortez.
Attorneys announced a civil lawsuit Thursday in Downtown Los Angeles against Torrance Unified School District in a child molestation case involving a high school wrestling coach. Pictured from left to right: Attorneys Ron Labriola, John Manly and Senior Paralegal Daisy Cortez.
Ashley Bailey/KPCC
Attorneys announced a civil lawsuit Thursday in Downtown Los Angeles against Torrance Unified School District in a child molestation case involving a high school wrestling coach. Pictured from left to right: Attorneys Ron Labriola, John Manly and Senior Paralegal Daisy Cortez.
File photo: Torrance High School as seen on Nov. 27, 2010.
kevin_butt/Flickr Creative Commons


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Attorneys for 18 boys announced a civil lawsuit Thursday against the Torrance Unified School District for allegedly turning a blind eye to decades of sexual abuse by a wrestling coach. 

The lawsuit accuses Torrance Unified School District, Torrance High School's principal and the district's superintendent of failing to protect the boys, some of them now adults, from Thomas Joseph Snider.

Snider, 48,  joined the district in 1990 and is currently on administrative leave without pay. He's also awaiting trial on 47 felony counts, including molestation and lewd acts upon a child. Snider has pled not guilty. 

The lawsuit claims  school officials ignored allegations of sexual abuse against Snider and should have suspected his odd behavior. 

"People missed the signs - they either missed them because they knew and didn't care or they missed them because they were ignorant," said John Manly, an attorney representing the boys. 

In an email, Tammy Khan, a public information officer with Torrance Unified, said the district is continuing to cooperate with police investigating Snider.

In addition, she said as part of beginning of the school year training, principals review policies with all their employees about procedures for reporting child abuse.

Manly said those procedures are inadequate. In addition to monetary damages, his clients are seeking changes to the way abuse is reported and investigated. 

In this case, the alleged abuse of high school boys, then between 13-16 years old, occurred between 1992 and 2015. 

The children allege Snider sexually abused them by performing “skin checks” and “groped and fondled” their private parts, Manly said. 

The Associated Press reports James Tedford, Snider's attorney has said the skin checks by Snider were to make sure the boys didn't have conditions such as ringworm.

"Remember, in California every teacher is a mandated reporter. When he was taking children repeatedly into a restroom or a closet, alone, that should have been reported," Manly said.

Manly also filed lawsuits against Torrance Unified School District last week on behalf of two other victims - bringing the total to 20 cases. Claim forms are pending in two other cases. 

Khan said the district plans to address the lawsuits, but did not provide details.

If convicted on criminal charges, Snider faces decades in prison.

Read the charges filed against Snider below.

Document: Charges filed against Torrance wrestling coach