Parents ask FUHSD board to remove coach
Last updated 10/11/2007 at Noon
Angry parents of Fallbrook High School lacrosse players faced the school district board Monday night calling for removal of head coach Al Schoffstall, alleging a litany of verbal and physical abuse of players.
Schoffstall – a history teacher who, according to sources, has never coached lacrosse before – reportedly fired volunteer coach Ted Reid when Schoffstall came aboard in 2006.
In a letter to lacrosse parents, Reid states he had a verbal agreement with Schoffstall to stay as head coach through the 2008 season, at which time Schoffstall would take over when Reid left for another position. Reid says he “cannot say what moved up the timetable” but “I accept the decision of the principal and athletic director. Legally, they had no choice.”
In addition to allegations of abuse, parents claim Schoffstall also “fired” the Lacrosse Booster Club; formed a personal off-campus club named “Mohawk,” which practices during a period when players cannot be coached; and at its conclusion selected players for Fallbrook teams prior to season tryouts.
Further, the parents allege Schoffstall used personal humiliation to retaliate against players who have not paid to him a “donation” of $150, which is used to offset expenses for balls and nets.
Moreover, it was alleged that Schoffstall invoiced a student through ASB for the $800 fee levied for personal equipment, which is not paid for by students but is the value of the equipment. When challenged, a parent said, Schoffstall removed the fee.
Volunteer junior varsity coach Brett DeGroff said Schoffstall told players if they did not pay the “donation” – which is an education code violation, claims parent Dawn Jordan – they would neither play nor graduate. DeGroff says this warning hints of extortion.
While tension began to mount between players and Schoffstall, individual parents believed their sons were the sole victims, but word spread. As a result, parents began to compare Schoffstall’s behavior and circulated petitions precipitated by Jordan’s complaint calling for an investigation of Schoffstall’s coaching. The petitions were signed by 25 families of players.
All players’ parents might have signed the petitions, believes DeGroff, but some may have feared for their sons’ safety on campus, where other players were reportedly systematically harassed by students.
Jordan began documenting Schoffstall’s behavior starting in February; soon after, she met with the school’s attorney and private investigator.
Players can be cut at the whim of the coach, says parent Brent Brotherton, who claims Schoffstall said to his son, “If you roll your eyes at me, you’re off the team.” Moreover, Brotherton says his son was told he couldn’t play if he didn’t pay the $150 “donation.”
Another parent says Schoffstall made her son run lunge-type exercises up and down the football field for an indeterminate amount of time. The next day, the parent noticed her son walking stiff-legged. After questioning him, she examined his legs, which she said were red, swollen and hot to the touch. This parent disclosed that she is a nurse and knows the physical damage her son endured to comply with the coach’s demand.
The results of the investigation into the parents’ allegations were published in a report a month ago, at which time DeGroff, Jordan and others met with Superintendent Tom Anthony, Principal Rod King and former Athletic Director John Hayek. Everyone except the parents was allowed to see the report, they say. DeGroff believed the meeting was arranged to resolve the issue, thinking Schoffstall would have a rebuttal to examine, but says that was not the case.
Once again the parents met with school officials, who now had Schoffstall’s response to their allegations. Again, they were not allowed to see his response, they said. At that meeting, DeGroff says Rod King commented he had talked to several players who did not have problems with Schoffstall.
Of the parents who signed the petitions, DeGroff says, “Nobody who signed a petition didn’t want to.” DeGroff says administrators told him Schoffstall denied everything; however, he says Rod King told him he had talked to Schoffstall and “there [would] be changes.”
When nothing happened to remove Schoffstall or censure him, DeGroff says he called Board President Bill O’Connor to tell him the parents would be at the meeting to voice their concerns publicly.
“[Schoffstall’s] rebuttal is taken at face value,” says DeGroff. “None of the students whose parents are involved in this complaint have been contacted.”
“The only insurance we have is going on record at the board meeting,” he added.
Superintendent Anthony says he will now take the parents’ complaints, the investigative report and Schoffstall’s rebuttal and review each extensively. After that, he says he will report his findings to the board, at which time he will ask the board what they want him to do.
Without changes in the high school’s lacrosse coaching staff, these parents believe the sport at Fallbrook is doomed. If that happens, some may face loss of lacrosse scholarships for their sons, which can affect college admittance.
Because of Schoffstall’s alleged behavior, and the parents forcing school administrators to address it, they say if he is not removed, two weeks into practice they fear their sons will be kicked off the team.
Brotherton says, “We want our kids to play and have fun and not be confronted with mind games.”