November 26, 2014

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Columbia basketball coach resigns

COLUMBIA STATION — The Columbia Board of Education on Friday accepted the resignation of former head boys basketball Coach Matt Sheets, who was on paid administrative leave pending a criminal investigation into allegations he was providing beer and marijuana to a 19-year-old former student at the school.

Sheets, who was also a social studies teacher at the high school, was not at the board meeting, according to Superintendent Graig Bansek.

“I think he made the best decision for himself,” Bansek said of Sheets.

Had the allegations been proven, Bansek said, “we would have gone forward with termination.”

“People in education are held to a higher standard, and we believe as a district they should adhere to it,” Bansek said.

Sheets alerted the district of his intension to resign his teaching and coaching positions in a letter earlier in the week, Bansek said.

“He resigned and said thanks — he enjoyed his time at Columbia,” Bansek said.

Bansek said Larry Babics, the former girls basketball coach, has replaced Sheets as boys coach and Ken Marlette took over as girls coach.

Sheets, who joined the district three years ago, fell under suspicion after the former student attempted suicide Oct. 14, and her mother looked at her cell phone and Facebook account while trying to figure out what led her daughter to harm herself.

In an affidavit for a search warrant for cell phones owned by the teenager and Sheets, Lorain County Drug Task Force Detective Jim Larkin wrote that the mother discovered text messages on her daughter’s phone that indicated she and Sheets were “hooking up” and that he was giving her marijuana and beer.

The mother also allegedly learned that Sheets was corresponding with her daughter using the alias “Jerry Parsons,” a name that showed up both in her phone and on her Facebook account.

Sheets’ number was listed under the Parsons pseudonym in the teenager’s cell phone, which her mother learned belonged to him by searching for the number using an online search engine, according to the affidavit. In Facebook messages exchanged by the couple, the teenager wrote to Sheets that she would send him pictures or whatever he wanted if he would give her beer and marijuana, Larkin wrote.

She also asked if he wanted to see her naked or in a bra and panties and appears to have forwarded him pictures, according to the affidavit.

In one exchange setting up an Oct. 12 date at a local bar, the teenager asked Sheets to bring marijuana with him, Larkin wrote.

Sheets allegedly responded that “you would have to be real nice” and “some (expletive) like that would have to be a real special person, super nice.”

When Larkin confronted Sheets on Oct. 19, the teacher said he met the teenager for the date at a bar and that they engaged in oral sex.

Larkin wrote that while Sheets admitted to giving the teenager beer, he denied giving her marijuana. He also acknowledged that he received nude photos from her.

The day after the date, the teenager told Sheets that she had a good time the night before and would see him the next week, according to the affidavit.

“(The teenager) says in the message that she will save the beer for tomorrow night, indicating that ‘Jerry Parsons’ aka Matt Sheets did give her the beer,” Larkin wrote.

The girl’s mother found a case of beer in her room.

Bansek said Sheets never had the teenager as a student in any of his classes and there’s no indication that they had a relationship while she attended school in Columbia. She graduated from another school district, he said.

Sheets did not return phone calls Friday. Bansek said a substitute who is certified to teach social studies will likely handle Sheets’ classroom assignments.

Sheets is the second Columbia teacher to resign in 2012. In May, the school board accepted the resignation of fifth-grade science teacher Michelle Kazmierczak after she was charged with disseminating material harmful to juveniles.

She is accused of sending topless photos of herself to an eighth-grader who was dating her daughter at the time. The boy’s father, Tyrone Price, is accused of blackmailing her to keep the photos secret from her husband and police.

Kazmierczak contacted Lorain County sheriff’s deputies in an effort to put a stop to the blackmail and is cooperating with the investigation into Price, who is in a diversion program for stealing from the Amherst Youth Football Association.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.