Torrance police
Torrance Police Department car. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Torrance Unified School District will pay $31 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the families of 22 boys victimized by a former wrestling coach now serving prison time for fondling students or watching them shower, officials announced Wednesday.

Thomas Joseph Snider, now 50, was sentenced to 69 years to life in prison in October 2016. He was convicted of 26 felony counts of committing a lewd act on a child of 14 or 15, three felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and eight misdemeanor counts of child molesting.

Prosecutors said Snider would fondle students under the guise of conducting skin checks, saying he was checking for signs of ringworm. During the inspections, Snider had the teens take off their clothing and would sometimes touch their genitals, prosecutors said.

Snider also watched students shower and massaged several of them, according to evidence presented at his trial. School officials became aware of Snider’s conduct after students told opposing team members about the skin checks, the prosecutors said.

Much of the $31 million settlement will be covered by the district’s insurer.

TUSD Superintendent George Mannon issued a statement Wednesday saying student’s safety remains a top priority for the district, which encourages students to report suspicious behavior.

“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,” Mannon said. “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.”

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