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Jefferson board to hear parents’ complaint about coach’s action

2011-12-01T00:00:00Z Jefferson board to hear parents’ complaint about coach’s actionBy ALANA LISTOE Independent Record Helena Independent Record
December 01, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Parents of a Jefferson High freshman are outraged that a basketball coach told their son he was cut from the team because of his special need.

Trustees are meeting tonight in Boulder to discuss the treatment of the male student who was recently cut from the basketball team. The coach told the student he was cut because of his disability, the parents say.

Dave Kosola, the father of the boy, alleges that Rex Sonsteng, basketball coach and math teacher, told the student that because he has a disability he couldn’t learn the plays.

Kosola says his son has mental issues and is taking part in a special program at school. He said if the coach would have said that his skill set was not good enough and therefore he was cut from the team, the issue would have been over. But the language used is serious cause for concern, Kosola said.

Principal and Superintendent Jim Whealon said he’s hired an attorney to investigate the matter.

“We have an ongoing investigation with no conclusion yet,” Whealon said, adding that the attorney, from Missoula, is a neutral party.

“It’s just to ensure that due process is followed,” Whealon said.

The seven-member board will meet today at 6:45 p.m. at the JHS library. Sonsteng is still working at the school. Sonsteng declined to comment on the situation.

“We don’t typically place a teacher who has a contract on paid administrative leave — only if there is a danger and I don’t think that’s the issue,” Whealon said.

Kosola says his son deserves an apology.

“I’m not saying he should be fired but he should be accountable for his actions. This is a black eye for people with disabilities,” he said.


Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

    Report Abuse
    JUSTDAFACTS - December 07, 2011 10:49 pm
    Curmudgeon said: "I'm 79 yrs old and live in a wheelchair, and if I'm not allowed to play on the "C" Team, I am going to sue the coach, the school and the board for unfair, illegal DISCRIMINATION.That'll teach 'em!"

    Well...We hope you actually get your high school deploma some day. Keep working hard and you will get there some day. Of course, if you have actually already gotten your deploma, I guess you really shouldnt be making silly comparisons between yourself and a special needs teenager huh?
    Report Abuse
    JUSTDAFACTS - December 07, 2011 5:56 pm
    dietz1963 said: "Hey justdafacts, as you're getting wide with that brush there, in the PC culture the term "retards" is no longer used and its particularly inappropriate to use here since the subject is special needs. The term now I think is "intellectually challenged".I'm still looking for what exact verbiage was used to set some people off."

    I guess you couldnt understand the 2nd paragraph dietz...where I make the point that you cannot think my comments are not ok and then call the parents actions an over reaction and the issue small. ITS CALL SARCASM and HYPERBOLE...look them up. You might find them interesting. I was making a point which must be beyond some...sorry for using big words. And I did not call anyone's child those words. Supposedly some of you adults seemed to think it no issue and just a good life lesson, until I called you them. I used those words because use of this type of word IS THE POINT and the problem. Then I explain why I was using them and that it was, in fact, to make a point. Reading comprehension...a lost art.

  3. boulder1
    Report Abuse
    boulder1 - December 07, 2011 8:24 am
    I find it unfortunate that Mr. Songsteng has been suspended. I hope the investigation reveals the truth and that all parties involved reach some kind of a resolution.
    Now, to change the subject a little. The Jefferson High School Board of Trustees has historically been found to be incompetent. Under the leadership of Stan Senechal, decisions have been made that ignore the recommendation of the principal and superintendent. Ignoring the fact that the administrators have been hired to make decisions, and typically school boards follow those decisions, this group of blowhards historically chooses to ignore their recommendations in favor of their own wants, needs, and desires. The ironic thing about this is that many of the people who get elected to the JHS school board are either uneducated, or have themselves been found to have been in positions of mismanagement or misconduct. Two examples: Mike Moliter and Stan Senechal. Mike Moliter (former JHS school board memner) was convicted a few years ago of pilfering his employees' retirement funds. Stan Senechal came to light a few years ago for his role in the mismanagement of the Helena hockey team. Mr. Senechal has been known to actually enter teachers' classrooms during the school day and verbally abuse them about their coaching. For whatever reason, Senechal seems to hold the reigns over the rest of the school board members, with whatever he decides becoming gospel, and the rest of the members cowardly backing his every decision like the SS backed Hitler. They make no effort to think for themselves, either because they lack the ability to do so, or because they are so enamored by his self-serving power trip. And what's funny about the whole thing is that he's a little guy, has little guy syndrome. It amazes me that Stanley Senechal (and his like) continue to get elected to positions that make decisions that affect our children.
    If anyone wonders why there are problems within JHS, one needs look no further than their own Board of Trustees, and its members like Moliter and Senechal.
  4. exlogger
    Report Abuse
    exlogger - December 05, 2011 4:25 pm
    We live in a world of PC and entitlements. I'm outraged this kid didn't make the varsity team (it ain't his fault)! Should we not reflect our social views the same in our schools?? Lets be consistent folks, our kids will be confused when they find out they don't have to work, strive, or compete when they finish school. Between my Fibromyalgia, Bipolarness, Depression, ADD, ADHD, etc... The Check is in the mail!
  5. dolphind3
    Report Abuse
    dolphind3 - December 02, 2011 10:22 am
    Ok, first off....keepitreal; i don't see where "everyone" is condeming this coach. I for one would need to know more about this before I could make an informed statement. I will say that highschool coaches are not perfect. The worst thing I have seen is right here in Helena where a coach actually tell kids the year before that they shouldn't try out next year as they "will" be cut. He has been doing it for years. Yet no one says anything. My kids have never been cut but parents of kids that have had this happen have talked about their frustrations over and over. This situation is far worse
  6. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - December 02, 2011 9:22 am
    I'm 79 yrs old and live in a wheelchair, and if I'm not allowed to play on the "C" Team, I am going to sue the coach, the school and the board for unfair, illegal DISCRIMINATION.

    That'll teach 'em!
  7. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - December 02, 2011 8:25 am
    Also justdafacts, considering the article does surround calling, by your name calling of people calling them retards, twits, jerks...isn't really helping you get your point across on what verbiage is or is not appropriate.

    Why can't I compare myself with this kid? What happened/what was said as a kid isn't comparing myself with this kid and I am my disability is downgraded because I'm an adult?
  8. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - December 02, 2011 8:22 am
    Hey justdafacts, as you're getting wide with that brush there, in the PC culture the term "retards" is no longer used and its particularly inappropriate to use here since the subject is special needs. The term now I think is "intellectually challenged".

    I'm still looking for what exact verbiage was used to set some people off.
  9. Jenkins
    Report Abuse
    Jenkins - December 01, 2011 9:45 pm
    To "KeepItReal" or "Guancho"- What exactly was said to this child? The article is vague. I am interested in what the school board decides.
    Report Abuse
    JUSTDAFACTS - December 01, 2011 8:18 pm
    Guancho...nice to know calling your child (if you have one) names would not elicit a reaction from you. Poor kid.
    Report Abuse
    JUSTDAFACTS - December 01, 2011 8:17 pm
    KeepItReal...since YOU don't know the people you are accusing, I guess you are ALSO not entitled to an opinion. I know him as well as most of the people in this story. I do not know if he said it and neither do you. Who we know has nothing to do with this issue.
    Report Abuse
    JUSTDAFACTS - December 01, 2011 8:14 pm about some self serving ignorant and uneducated responses! They sure let the retards out to post here today.

    If your first response is anger at my first and second sentences I am sure you are now telling yourself that you have to learn it's a hard life and I am just teaching you that lesson....right? TWITS! I do not know if this teacher said such a thing but I do know the people defending such a statement are jerks and deserving of my contempt. And you have it. Oh and dietz...comparing yourself to the child in this situation is a JOKE! Somebody needs to grow up. I guess we disagree on who it is.
  13. Jenkins
    Report Abuse
    Jenkins - December 01, 2011 7:53 pm
    I am anxious to see what the school board has to say. To "KeepItReal", what exactly was said that these parents are so upset about? Any info you can give would be great!
    Thank you!
  14. KeepItReal
    Report Abuse
    KeepItReal - December 01, 2011 4:11 pm
    Again, TMW0270, why are you just assuming that Coach Sonsteng is guilty and that he said these things? Do you personally know the kid that is making these allegations and you are just falling into the trap that most everyone else is and you're thinking the worse without knowing all of the facts first? I have a niece with Downs, so trust me - I am super sensitive to the things people say to or about children with special needs. But I'm not going to defend this kid, because I know Coach Sonsteng - he would not have said those things to that kid - heck, he wouldn't have said those things to ANY kid! There are A LOT of details that you don't know about that if you were privy to them, you, too might be taking a step back realize that Coach Sonsteng is not guilty of what he's been accused of.
  15. KeepItReal
    Report Abuse
    KeepItReal - December 01, 2011 3:53 pm
    What I'd like to know is what happened to Coach Sonsteng being considered innocent until proven guilty? Why is everyone just assuming that what was written in this IR article is the gospel truth? I couldn't agree with Guancho more: This kid has got to learn that not everything in life is going to be sugar coated and it's best he learn this now rather than later. I know Coach Sonsteng personally - he coaches my son - and he's a good friend of mine. I know without a doubt that he did not say those things to that kid. I think this child is obviously upset and is probably a little embarrassed that he got cut from the C squad, so he ran home and made up those lies about the Coach. That's really sad.
  16. TMW0270
    Report Abuse
    TMW0270 - December 01, 2011 2:10 pm

    It is quite obvious that you do not know anyone who has "special needs", otherwise, I assume you wouldn't type something so rude.

    It's not called "sugar coating". It called being a compassionate and respectul human being toward another human being.

    It's people like YOU who need to learn something, not his parents. I sure hope you don't have children, we can see how they would treat others with any form of disability.

    My parents raised me that if I didn't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Perhaps you should adhere to the same advice.

  17. KeepItReal
    Report Abuse
    KeepItReal - December 01, 2011 2:05 pm
    Oh, and Guancho, kudos to you for the words you posted. This kid is obviously not so handicapped that he shouldn't learn about LIFE like every other kids has to - which means exactly what you said: "not everything is going to be sugar coated.......He needs to learn that, (and) better now than later!" The fact that he ran home to daddy and lied, and now daddy is up in arms and demanding apologies for something that never happened is just wrong!!! COACH SONSTENG IS A GOOD GUY AND HE DID NOT SAY THAT STUFF TO THIS KID!
  18. KeepItReal
    Report Abuse
    KeepItReal - December 01, 2011 1:59 pm
    First off, I happen to personally know this particular coach. He devotes A LOT of his own personal time in opening the gym after school to allow the kids to play basketball. I know for a fact that he never would have made such a statement to a student, especially a handicap one! Why is he already being presumed guilty of having made these statements, especially by people who obviously do not know him? Did anyone happen to think that maybe this is just a disgruntled kid who was embarrassed and a little angry that he got cut? And FYI Bigskyconcern, you don't know all of the facts. 1) there ARE cuts on the freshman teams. So many kids went out this year that there had to be cuts, on the freshman, JV and Varsity teams! 2) Last year's JV coach quit to spend more time with his family, so this year there are only 2 coaches: the JV and the Varsity. Coach Sonstend volunteered to coach the C squad (freshman) AND the Varsity, both. Otherwise, they were looking at possibly cutting the C squad all together.

    Coach Sonsteng did NOT make those statements to that kid. There is no doubt in my mind about that. So since you guys don't know him, how about doing what you're supposed to and find him innocent until PROVEN guilty? Isn't that what YOU would want if YOU were in this situation?

    Think about it..........
  19. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - December 01, 2011 1:21 pm
    Strange culture we live in these days isn't it? Curious, what was the exact verbiage used that everyone is in an uproar around because I didn't read anything in the article that looked disturbing to me nor do I see anything that was discriminatory. I remember being a kid, tried out for the school swim team freshman year and didn't make it. I was "a weak swimmer" that "couldn't grasp good stroke techniques". Was disappointing, but the coach was right. So, I practiced on my own all summer long and the next year I qualified.

    Now a days I'm a little disabled, there are certain things I can't do anymore. Competive swimming and martial arts are a couple of those things. Means I can't qualify for these sports anymore. I don't feel discriminated against.
  20. MEEKER
    Report Abuse
    MEEKER - December 01, 2011 11:41 am
    The thing is this is not the only kid he has verbally abused or called names. The sad thing this is the only parent so far that has the guts to say anything. The problem is Jefferson High School does not care about bullying in the school or coaches being bullies. The volleyball coach called one of her players fat parents complained to coaches, activity director principal & superintendent and nothing ever came of it. The fact is that school just does not care and the sad thing is they treat the players like this and they still cannot bring a winning team in any sport to play, maybe the problem is not the coach but maybe the principal and activity director.
  21. Bigskyconcern
    Report Abuse
    Bigskyconcern - December 01, 2011 10:00 am
    I think that we need to be sympathetic to this situation. The fact of the matter is that at most smaller schools, there are NO cuts on the freshman teams. It is obvious to me that there was some sort of discrimination. You do not need to cut a student from the freshman squad. If they do not have the required skills, than do not put them in the game, but they should still be able to practice and have the social interaction.
  22. Guancho
    Report Abuse
    Guancho - December 01, 2011 9:33 am
    Overreact much?

    "the language used is serious cause for concern"? Really? Sorry but not everything is going to be sugar coated for your kid his entire life. He needs to learn that, better now than later.

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