DULUTH — The girls high school hockey coach in Warroad, Minn., has filed a defamation lawsuit against several parents of current and former players after public accusations made about his alleged behavior.
David Marvin, who has coached the northern Minnesota team in the city dubbed "Hockeytown USA" for nearly two decades, claims that for months, the parents have made "baseless allegations, wild fabrications and false statements" about him, damaging his reputation, according to the suit.
Marvin accuses Shana and Matt Lanctot, Jeff and Patti Johnson, Coreen Lindquist and Kristin Coauette of making false claims about criminal activity, sexual harassment and abuse related to his team.
Several of those parents recently distributed a letter alleging violations of Warroad Public Schools and Minnesota State High School League policies. Some of the parents were interviewed on a local radio program and have made social media posts. In the letter, Marvin is accused of urinating in public, ignoring concussion protocol, making sexually harassing comments, bullying and drinking while supervising players at the state tournament, among other actions.
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The letter, which threatens a lawsuit if changes aren't made, says the parents aren't satisfied with the school district's and school board's responses to their complaints.
The parents said in the letter that they "want to protect all players from horrific experiences that our children have endured as well as so many before them in the girls hockey program."
The lawsuit says the parents have "conducted a campaign" to have Marvin removed as coach.
Marvin had hoped to avoid legal action, his attorney, David Wilk, said, believing the allegations would stop after a district investigation.
But they continued, he said, and now Marvin hopes to prevent further harm.
"Mr. Marvin is an upstanding member of the Warroad community and has dedicated almost two decades to the Warroad girls hockey program and the development of its individual players," Wilk said.
Marvin belongs to the prominent family that owns the longtime Warroad-based window and door manufacturer Marvin. He also is a member of the Max Foundation board, which raises money for mental wellness in memory of his son, Max, who died by suicide in 2018 at age 19.
The school board renewed Marvin's contract after investigating the complaints, Superintendent Shawn Yates said in an interview. The district has one complaint on record against Marvin; it was from this year and resulted in no discipline.
District records show an assistant coach was disciplined this year and banned from staying with the team on overnight trips during the current season. She had been accused in the letter of passing out in a player's hotel room in bed with members of the team.
"The concerns raised have already been addressed," Yates said. "And while some individuals may not be satisfied and are looking backward at years past, the district is looking forward."
Several of the parents declined to speak on the record, but Susie Neist, whose daughter played for Marvin in recent years, said she commends their courage in speaking up.
"The parents listed in the lawsuit by David Marvin are salt-of-the-earth people that care about the well-being of kids," she said. "Their individual efforts to come forward have given others the strength to share their stories."
The nonprofit organization Warroad Hockeytown said in a statement that "we fully support coach Marvin and his staff."
Citing "false information" relayed by several parents, the statement said that as "allegations were brought forth, school administrators did their due diligence and appropriate action was taken."
In 2022, a fired Woodbury High School girls basketball coach won his defamation lawsuit against a parent for spreading false information about him. The long-running case had previously led to a groundbreaking ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2019 that high school coaches aren't public figures under the First Amendment, so parents aren't protected when making false claims against them.
Marvin will earn about $8,200 for coaching this year, according to district records. He coached teams that won state championships this year and in 2022, as well as 2010 and 2011.