A Gallatin County District Court judge has granted a request by a group of Manhattan parents to reinstate the school's suspended football coach.
In a suit filed in District Court shortly after 12:30 p.m. Friday, the parents of 10 players claim their children's constitutional rights have been violated by the suspension head coach Dale McQueary.
The parents asked for McQueary to be immediately reinstated pending the finalization of an investigation into the coach and any appeals or follow-up actions relative to it.
Less than three hours after the suit was filed, Gallatin County District Court Judge Mike Salvagni granted a temporary restraining order, which keeps the Manhattan School District from suspending McQueary until a hearing can be held.
That hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 31, at 9:30 a.m. before Salvagni.
“The loss of any one game jeopardizes the chance for these young men, especially the seniors, to participate in the state playoffs,” Salvagni wrote in his order. “They also will be denied the opportunity to fairly compete with other football players in this state and others for college scholarships if their season is cut short by not having the input of a head coach.”
McQueary, who also teaches eighth grade math in Manhattan, was suspended Sept. 19, from both coaching and teaching, pending an investigation into financial issues related to the football team.
The suspension was partially lifted, and he was allowed to resume teaching on Oct. 8.
On Thursday, the popular coach was suspended for the remainder of the season based on the findings of the Montana School Board Association's investigation.
The investigative report said that McQueary withheld nearly $8,400 from the school activities account, not depositing cash from players selling $20 discount cards in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The report also said McQueary made expenditures, for equipment and meals, from football funds without the knowledge or approval of the school district.
When initially approached about missing funds, McQueary had $3,000 in cash in an unlocked filing cabinet in his classroom, the report said. McQueary said he paid a volunteer coach $1,000. When asked to get the money back, he left and returned with 11 $100 bills he said were in a briefcase in his vehicle, the report said.
McQueary has either returned cash or accounted for all but $296, the report said.
When asked why McQueary didn't deposit the cash, McQueary told the school district's auditor that he didn't deposit cash into the district's student activity account so he could pay for equipment and meals without worrying about Title IX rules, the report said.
The report also said McQueary acknowledged that he had students sign off on a spreadsheet that contained inaccurate information as to the number of cards sold and money collected by players through a fundraiser.
According to the lawsuit filed Friday, McQueary was informed through his lawyer that he was suspended based on the findings of the investigative report without having the chance to give a written response or rebuttal.
The team has been without the coach for five games, the suit said.
“While playing well, the players are now in a precarious position,” wrote Livingston attorney Karl Knuchel, who is representing the parents in the suit. “They must win their next game, or they will not be in the playoffs. They must win it by 11 points to assure better seeding.”
The suit claims that McQueary's suspension doesn't give football players their best opportunities to succeed and advance in the playoffs. That has caused the players “irreparable harm” and has lost them opportunities for athletic scholarships, the suit claims.
“These participants have worked not only this season but for many, many years to play for Manhattan High,” Knuchel wrote. “All of this preparation and work for these players is for naught if they are not even given the chance to play and earn a playoff spot in their conference.”