Subscribe for 17¢ / day

The West High girls basketball coach and physical-education teacher, who authorities last week revealed was the subject of a federal internet crimes investigation, came to School District 2 highly recommended.

Scott Nichols is the subject of a child pornography investigation by the FBI and the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Nichols came to the district a year ago from Livingston.

On Tuesday, SD2 officials released Nichols' personnel file, which included his application to the district and four recommendation letters touting Nichols' coaching skills and the positive impact he has made on students.

That's frustrating to Lynette Zwerneman, a Livingston parent whose daughter played for Nichols in 2007 and 2008. Zwerneman said she met in 2008 with district leaders, including then-Park High School Principal Gary Kane, to lodge a formal complaint about what she saw as inappropriate behavior by Nichols.

Kane left the district at the end of the school year last June.

"They just looked at me and took notes," Zwerneman said of the 2008 meeting. 

Zwerneman complained that Nichols had too familiar a relationship with the girls on his team, texting them often and telling a few he felt that he had an especially close bond to them. 

She said the district took no action because at the time there were no policies in place dictating what specific communication between coaches and players was appropriate or inappropriate.

Scott Rosberg, athletic director for the Livingston district, was hired in 2010 and said he heard "background noise" in the community about Nichols' familiarity with his players and that it may have at times crossed a line. 

But no parents or players who were on Nichols' team from the time Rosberg was in charge ever came to him to complain about Nichols' behavior, he said. He did have a visit from Zwerneman. 

"He was a stand-up guy, a good coach," Rosberg said. News of the investigation "was a huge shock to everyone here."

Kane's letter of recommendation, which is four pages long, made no mention of complaints. 

"Scott Nichols runs his program with absolutely impeccable precision and uncompromising integrity and, without question, this is why he wins," Kane wrote.

Nichols joined SD2 last June after having coached and taught in the Livingston School District for 15 years. 

SD2 officials have said they contacted the references supplied by Nichols in his application and heard back only positive reports. If Zwerneman's complaint was filed with Livingston Public Schools in 2008, it wasn't forwarded to SD2, they said. 

Superintendent Terry Bouck said Nichols also cleared his background check, which included running his fingerprints.

A first-year teacher, Nichols' contract was not renewed by SD2. The school board on Monday night did not address Nichols specifically but voted to accept the district's personnel report, which had a line recommending that Nichols' contract not be renewed.



Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.