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Claremont School Board Member Under Fire

Claremont — School Board member Gene Grumman said Tuesday he has not decided whether he will resign from the board in the wake of his dismissal as youth soccer coach after parents complained he made derogatory comments toward 9- and 10-year-old girls on his team.

“I’m still kind of debating it,” Grumman, 64, said of his future on the School Board. “I think I know the direction I am heading, but I have not decided yet.”

He said Richard Seaman, the School Board chairman, and board member David Putnam had suggested he consider resigning.

“Mr. Putnam and Mr. Seaman thought it would be in the best interest of the board if I resigned,” said Grumman, a former Stevens High soccer coach and biology teacher.

The controversy started after the president of the Sullivan Football Club, an independent youth soccer club, told then-Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hausler that parents had called him with complaints about Grumman.

According to an Oct. 14 email to Hausler, one girl told her parents that Grumman said to her and two others, “You little bitches need to pass the ball.”

In another instance, he asked a girl if “she was going to ‘pass the ball to the short ugly girl or the pretty one,’ ” the email said.

The club president, whose name, along with those of the parents who reported the statements, was redacted in emails obtained by the Valley News, spoke to Grumman and learned he had reached out to three parents to apologize, according to the email. At that point, the club asked Grumman to resign and he stepped down.

A day later, Hausler relieved Grumman of his duties as a volunteer with the city’s parks and recreation department. In the Oct. 15 letter to Grumman, who was president of the Claremont Youth Soccer Association, Hausler referred to two “unsettling” phone calls from the parents involved in the Sullivan Football Club complaining about Grumman’s behavior.

Last week, Grumman resigned from the Stevens High School Renovation Committee after the comments that generated complaints from the parents were reported in the Eagle Times.

This is not the first time Grumman has been under scrutiny for his language toward girls he coached or taught. He was dismissed as the Stevens varsity soccer coach in 2002 for comments that were sexually offensive, and in 2007, he and the Claremont school district were sued by the parents of a Stevens student who claimed Grumman made crude and inappropriate comments about her physical appearance in front of other students in a biology class in 2005. The suit was settled out of court for $90,000.

Putnam said Tuesday he did not tell Grumman to resign but did pass on concerns expressed to him by other residents. “It is completely his decision,” Putnam said. “What I did tell him is that a lot of people told me they thought it would be good if he resigned.”

Grumman said last week he did not want to talk about the parents’ complaints and would wait until he decides on whether to leave the board before deciding to comment further.

While Grumman said he has not heard directly from anyone in the community about his status on the board, Putnam said he has heard from a number of residents.

“They want to know what (the School Board members) are going to do,” Putnam said. “My response has been is there is nothing we can do. He has not been charged with a crime.”

Reached Tuesday night, Seaman agreed with Putnam.

“It is his decision. From my point of view, he was elected by the voters, so he has to decide whether he can still be effective as a board member,” Seaman said. “I’m sure he will think this through and come to the right decision.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.