GENEVA — The Geneva City School District and its former lacrosse coach have come to a settlement that allows him to continue teaching but prohibits him from seeking another coaching position in the district.
At a special meeting Thursday, the Board of Education approved an agreement between the district and social studies teacher Laurence “LJ” Russell, who had a 194-93 career record in 15 seasons as head lacrosse coach before being placed on administrative leave from his coaching and teaching positions in May.
The district did not disclose the reasons for his suspension, but the Finger Lakes Times was told by sources in May that it was related to concussion protocol.
In the agreement, which the Times obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, the incident or incidents related to concussion protocol are not outlined, but Russell is required to “engage in professional development in the area of concussion management.” The pact also states that Russell is prohibited from applying for another coaching position.
According to the agreement, the district said it had commenced a disciplinary proceeding against Russell in late June, but did not reveal any details of the proceeding in the document.
The agreement states that “Mr. Russell denies the charges and has requested a hearing on the charges preferred against him,” and that “the parties recognize the cost an uncertainties of litigation and have decided that it is in their respective best interests to compromise and resolve their differences in full, by entering into this agreement and making clear their respective rights and obligations without resorting to further litigation … ”
As part of the agreement, the district said it is withdrawing disciplinary charges filed with the state Education Department.
• Russell will be “given one last chance in the district,” but he is not allowed to “engage in conduct that is retaliatory towards the individuals involved in this matter or in conduct that jeopardizes the health, safety and/or welfare of the district’s students.”
• Russell will be fined $1,500.
• Russell has been reassigned to the middle school for the 2019-20 academic year.
Russell did not return an email or phone call requesting comment.
District spokesperson Heather Swanson issued a statement to the Times in response to the approval of the agreement by the Board of it Education:
“The Geneva City School District completed its investigation into the boys varsity lacrosse program,” she said. “LJ Russell will continue his teaching position at the district. Applications are currently being accepted for spring coaching positions.”
Swanson said Brian Travis, an assistant coach under Russell who also had been placed on administrative leave, was cleared earlier this year following a district investigation.
The Panthers were 12-4 overall and Finger Lakes league regular-season champions when Russell was suspended.
Jeff Dunham, head coach of the Geneva junior varsity lacrosse team, took over for Russell. Dunham and his JV assistant, Mike Rice, directed the Panthers varsity to a Class C sectional title. Geneva’s season ended in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.