CLAYTON — The emails sent by former Northmont Football Coach Lance Schneider that led to another coach filing a formal complaint with the Northmont Board of Education, and that led to Schneider being suspended and his eventual resignation, have been made public.
On March 6 a coach sent an anonymous letter to Northmont Superintendent Dr. Sarah Zatik and members of the school board and included copies of emails sent by Schneider to several coaches at the high school.
The letter stated, “Recently Lance Schneider, our head football coach, sent two emails out to myself and most if not all of our high school coaches. As a dedicated coach and educator in this school district I found Mr. Schneider’s emails to be inappropriate as well as insulting. He has no insight on what I tell my athletes nor does he have the right to tell me as a coach/mentor how I should address my student athletes on these topics. Instructing me to tell a young athlete that he has no potential to play at the next level if he lacks the attributes, well I’m sorry these young athletes are allowed to set goals and have dreams. Who am I to tell that young athlete as a coach or mentor you have no chance?”
The coach attached an additional email Schneider sent out to his coaching staff, using the school district emails for some, prior to the start of the 2014 football season.
“This email degrades athletes and is 100 percent inappropriate,” the anonymous coach said. “Mr. Schneider wants to instruct me on how to coach? Well I’m sorry that is not my style. I know several of the current football coaches were appalled by this email. I was told none of them responded. The thought of if a parent saw this and the repercussions it would have not only on the football program, but the embarrassment for Northmont Schools. I have had it (the email) for a while and had no intentions of sharing it. My reasons were that most all of us know what type of person Mr. Schneider is and if I shared this it would probably not be in my best interest since Mr. Schneider seems to be shielded by our current administration. I now feel if our administration is going to allow him to stand on top of the hill as the almighty, then the truth needs to be told.”
The coach went on to say, “I am not and will not reveal my identity because I do not have faith any action will be taken regarding Mr. Schneider by the administration and I have to work for the same administration and do not want to suffer the repercussions. But you now know what type of person you currently have mentoring young men in your football program. As a Superintendent and a School Board you have been made aware and that’s the most I can do as concerned educator, mentor to young adults and most of all as a parent.”
The anonymous complaint led to the Northmont School District launching an internal investigation into the matter. Schneider was placed on administrative leave on March 24 while the investigation was being conducted.
One of Schneider’s emails concerned ‘Player Evaluation Notes’ he had compiled that he stated he had compiled throughout the second semester off-season. Apparently this email was sent to members of the football coaching staff.
It states, “If your position players appear on the list of defiant/disinterested players, it is your job to insure they know it, and to get them off of it. I have invested FAR too much time into them, and unless they change drastically, I will not invest any more.”
Following the heading, ‘Player evaluation notes’ the email states: “Every effort should be exhausted in ensuring the elite players are given the opportunity to contribute. We will win football games because of the following elite kids:”
The players’ names were redacted in the documents provided to this newspaper in order to protect their identity.
The email continues, “If we have to rely on any of the following defiant/disinterested kids, it will be difficult to compete with any opponent on our schedule: Cancerous tumors whom need to be eradicated for us to have any chance at success:”
Again, the players’ names were redacted.
“These kids will have an overwhelming negative impact on multiple members of our program.”
Schneider then listed players under the following headings: Douche bags, Slapdicks, Too absent to count on, and China Dolls (too soft).
Under the China Dolls heading he stated, “These kids ALWAYS have an injury, and use it as an excuse as long as they possibly can.” He then singled out one player as an honorable mention member of the China Dolls, stating: “As we all know, as soon as we start contact, he will be injured.”
The email refers to one player as the new ‘FRA-GEE-LAY,’ and then states, “Weak, unathletic, and unreliable are no way to go through life, son. At least be fat, drunk, and stupid, it would be more fun.”
In reference to the player’s family, the email states: “He comes from the same family tree as Side Show Bob, which immediately places him in the ‘can’t play’ category. Even though his off-season has been slightly more productive than his last two, he is still light years away from ever contributing. Conveniently, he was absent from school for the fourth quarter bench test and 40-yard dash. If you get a chance to observe he and” (name redacted) “opposing each other in drills, next season, the collisions will be reminiscent of pre-pubescent girls having a pillow fight at a slumber party, actually, the girls will hit harder than these two. The noise will be difficult to register on the most acutely sensitive sound equipment.”
Schneider referred to another player as, “Has tipped the precipice of slapdickdom to levels unbeknownst to mankind. When he does something in the weight room, it is with little exertion, other than to be a complete jack-off, which he has mastered. One day he will be able to sign his name” (redacted) “MSSD (Master of Science, Slapdick).”
Another player was referred to as, “Soft as stick butter at a July family reunion picnic, and lazier than a Salvadoran ground sloth.”
The email contains more disparaging remarks about other players as well.
Schneider wrote to George Bozovich, the OEA representative for Schneider during the investigation, and stated: “George, I would like to take the time to respond to these e-mails that have been sent to me, in the hopes I can begin to mend the damage that has been done. It is my hope it can be shared with the administration and school board, but if not, I completely understand.”
He explained that the original email in question was a player evaluation he had sent to the football coaching staff toward the end of the 2013-14 school year.
“I know there are some categories that could have been more wisely chosen such as players with less than ideal character and lacking maturity. Sometimes in my efforts to convey my thoughts, I let my sense of humor (albeit in poor taste in this scenario) get the best of me. I in no way meant to cause any harm to those individuals. This was an assessment intended only for my staff, most of which are friends of mine as well as colleagues. Obviously, someone within these confines shared this privy information with another not involved in our program.”
He further stated that many of the players named were not members of the football program due to academic ineligibility. Of those that did remain in the program, Schneider stressed that none of them were treated any differently than any other player. He said some actually developed during the summer and preseason and became players that actually contributed to the team’s efforts.
“In fact, even though we struggled on the field last year, it was one of my more enjoyable seasons as a coach because I was able to see players grow athletically and socially over the course of the season,” Schneider stated. “I pride myself in being a coach that has always looked out for the best interests of the players, and have never been one to belittle or demean a player, and asking any of my former or current players would corroborate that statement.”
Schneider went on to tell Bozovich that after the season he was able to incorporate new procedures into the football program, and his classroom, to make sure these types of poor reflections do not occur in the future.
“We have instituted a more stringent character development program to help ensure players have the necessary social values needed to be successful in their lives,” Schneider stated. “Not only does this help them grow as an individual, it helps them to become better teammates and leaders.”
He went on to say that a ‘Team Captains Handbook’ had been developed to guide senior leaders, “and have been teaching it to them during the off-season. Also, in an effort to change the classroom culture, I have made significant changes to the setting to help foster a greater team mentality, and we have seen some tremendous strength and social bonding gains over the course of this school year. There are virtually no members of my classes who are not fully engaged in becoming better athletes, and have become more in tune with how their fellow classmates are progressing, which has not always been the case in the past.”
Schneider went on to apologize for the unprofessional use of some of the language in various other emails.
“That is not something I am proud of, and they were sent to two of my best friends, thus making them more to friends than co-workers,” Schneider explained. “I know that does not make it any better. Another email had a reference to Dr. Zatik’s reminder of the dress code. I noticed there was a notation suggesting I was questioning her leadership. This could not be farther from the truth.”
He went on to say, “The leadership of this district is, and always has been, in fine hands.”
Schneider also made reference to other emails that questioned the commitment, character and work ethic of some players.
“Again, I understand not all were in the best light,” he said. “I have a tendency to call them as I see them. I know these were not the best choice of words, at times, and for that I again apologize. I now realize from this point forward I need to make a concerted effort to be less critical of individuals, and more understanding of their situations. It gets frustrating when you put time and effort into someone, and it does not work out for whatever reason(s). As you can see, I let my frustration get in the way of my better judgment. Now that I reflect upon it, there could have been far better ways to convey the message. Be rest assured, I again have never been disrespectful to a student, and want only the best for them in all of their endeavors.”
Schneider added, “Unfortunately, my poor judgment in these instances has brought us to a difficult position. I do want everyone to know I have cherished my time at Northmont, and hope I have not irreparably damaged this relationship. My wife and I have given our heart and soul to this school and community for the past sixteen years, and hope to continue in our roles for the rest of my career. We have sacrificed a great deal of our personal time to give everything we have to the school and community. Over the past 24 hours, I have had time to understand where I went wrong, and am eager to take the steps needed to improve as a co-worker, coach, and member of this wonderful community.”
It was signed: Sincerely, Lance Schneider.
On March 24 Schneider was placed on administrative leave while the Northmont School District conducted an investigation into matters involving his employment. Zatik said the action came as the result of the internal complaint listed at the beginning of this article.
In late April the school district appointed Tony Broering as the interim head football coach. Broering is entering his seventh season on the coaching staff and was previously the Thunderbolts’ associate head coach.
On June 8 Northmont City Schools accepted Schneider’s letter of resignation. He had served as head football coach of the high school team for 16 years and also served the district as a physical education teacher. According to a statement released by Northmont City Schools, “The resignation applies to all employment positions held with the Northmont City School District.”
According to an email from Superintendent Zatik, “Schneider’s resignation effectively ends the personnel investigation, and the district is satisfied to have reached a resolution that protects the integrity of the district and our students.”
Ron Nunnari can be reached at 684-9124, via email Rnunnari@civitasmedia.com or on Twitter @Englewood_Ind