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Letter: Soccer Parents Speak Up for Turnbull

The following letter was sent via email to Superintendent Margaret Hayes and the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Patch.

Dear Superintendent of Scotch Plains-Fanwood Schools:

We have recently become aware of , which led to your actions to suspend John from his responsibilities associated with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school system. We were saddened to hear of this ugly turn of events and, in attempt to bring some semblance of fairness to the equation, wanted to share some additional perspectives for your consideration.

In this litigious society in which we live, we certainly understand your decision to proactively manage the school system’s perceived risks in this regard by suspending John. Indeed, until the dust settles and perhaps calmer minds prevail, it may be an appropriate course of action. But, we ask that you and the rest of the administration consider the breadth of John’s strong record of contributions to the community’s activities, and live up to our time-tested standards of justice in America by ensuring that “the punishment fits the crime” in determining the professional fate of a man with such high integrity and character. To do otherwise would be a gross miscarriage of justice, and we believe that the administration should be responsible to this higher calling.

By means of background, we do not live in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community. Rather, we live in neighboring Warren Township, but spend a fair amount of time in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area. We have known John for close to 10 years and would entrust him with the lives of our children. In fact, John has not only taught our oldest and youngest children the game of golf, but has taken our oldest child on numerous occasions (with our firm blessings) to Florida in the winter in preparation for the upcoming high school golf seasons. Further, a couple of years ago, we had our middle child transfer into the Scotch Plains-Fanwood competitive MAPS soccer program just for the opportunity to play under the direction of John. In doing these things and supporting the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community, our decisions were not grounded in John’s proficiency as a golf and soccer coach. Rather, our decisions were grounded in John’s strength of character as a person, as embodied by a profound sense of respect for people and the highest degree of integrity. Indeed, it is these very character traits that we have always felt made him the ideal role model for each of our children, and we are proud to count him as both a friend and mentor for our kids. For those who truly know John and have seen his tireless contributions to the community, we are sure there would be a common recognition of John’s virtues. 

Having said all of that, we recognize that there was an alleged infraction involving John sharing some wine at dinner with children under the legal age of drinking. We do not intend to debate the severity, or lack thereof, of this alleged infraction, and are greatly disappointed in the people that have escalated this debate in the public forums through the various local newspaper websites. As you know, there are people on all sides of this debate. All we say is that we are an imperfect people by nature and there is not one of us who has not committed a minor indiscretion or made a questionable decision at various points in their lives. But, we, as a society, should not condemn each other for isolated and perhaps innocent events, notwithstanding the legalities of the situation; rather, we should judge a person by his or her cumulative record of contributions to the community in which we live, work and raise our families, along with the honest and forthright manner in which that person conducts his or her life.

In teaching and coaching in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area for upwards of 26 years, we are sure that John has both his share of supporters and adversaries. After all, that is sports and life, in general. What better tonic could there be for the disgruntled parent who did not believe their child got his or her fair chance to play than to jump on the bandwagon and promote such a severe punishment? As we have known John, he has never yielded to the politics and pressures to play “nice” with all of those over-competitive parents, choosing instead to focus on teaching the art of the sport and the principles of treating everyone fairly, while also ensuring that our child-athletes demonstrate the respect for the sports they played, including officials, coaches, teammates, parents and opponents. Perhaps it will be those very politics that cause his undoing and the tarnishing of a consistent record of community service, which would be so unjust at its core.

We are privileged to know John. We further believe that our communities need more role models like John Turnbull in our children’s lives. As such, we implore you and the rest of the administration to consider the totality of a person’s contributions, and, yes, sometimes failures, before casting judgment. You do not owe that to the public, you may not feel that you owe that to John, but you indeed owe it to yourselves as individuals and trusted leaders of the community in which we live.

Thank you for your consideration.

Lori and Jay Levine
Warren Township 

RUDY September 28, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Soccer parents from Warren commenting on SP related issue. REALLY!
Paul September 28, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Well written and accurate letter. We need John Turnbull in the school system. Paul Lafkowitz (Resident of Scotch Plains for 33 years)
Common Sense September 28, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Nice character reference. The facts and background must be known and the situation investigated – thoroughly. All the solid historical background in the world on the suspect won’t justify a pass, even just once in this type of matter. Unfortunately it is usually never just once! Maybe this is an exceptional exception and this is man is a pillar of the community and if so, the evidence will vindicate him. The patterns of behaviors of such acts are proven to show often dire consequences result in so many cases. And by your own statement, there is a history of unsupervised adult-child interactions. This person has tremendous influence over many children– a paradigm tool of someone who could be disingenuous about their motives. It’s natural as an outsider looking in, to assume the worst – the old adage, ‘where there is smoke there is fire’. The world is short on saints and people of good character – I hope for a lot of reasons he is innocent and not proven guilty. If the investigation proves no intent and that it was a stupid decision - then a lighter sentence for probation for sure; but facts are facts, and I hope the prosecutor weighs this appropriately. As for the school board – this sounds like ‘0’ tolerance territory (once all is known)…and no matter how many years of great service to the school and community, the rule is there for a reason.
spfparent September 28, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Your letter was well written and well thought out. I suggest you rework it to try and get him a job in your school district. I do not want him anywhere near my young children. His years of experience as a coach, mentor, and teacher should have given him the knowledge base to understand the laws of the United States of America and to also understand what is appropriate or not appropriate to be doing with students. The fact that he has this experience and still publically disobyed the law with students is so completely wrong on so many levels. If he is serving alchohol to minors in public, what is he doing behind closed doors? What was he doing with your child in Florida?
susan September 28, 2011 at 04:13 PM
I used to be an avid fan of Patch, and found some comments left were thought provoking, and sometimes very amusing. I have noticed that there are more and more often really nasty comments being left which are directed at certain individuals, and this ugliness really turns my stomach. I won't be logging on to this website again. ----- and shame on Patch for not monitoring this more closely. Rumors and inuendo like the type allowed on this forum ruin lives and reputations.
Wesley September 28, 2011 at 05:05 PM
"But, we, as a society, should not condemn each other for isolated and perhaps innocent events, notwithstanding the legalities of the situation; rather, we should judge a person by his or her cumulative record of contributions to the community in which we live, work and raise our families, along with the honest and forthright manner in which that person conducts his or her life." Oh hold on, I'm going to do outstanding service to my community for the next 25 years, so I can get one incident of my choice swept under the rug as a reward. Great logic. This debate, in my opinion, has nothing to do with his how Turnbull is prosecuted in court; instead, it is about his position of authority with children. I could not care less if the courts determine a $3 fine is good enough. What I do care is if it is confirmed in court that he served alcohol to minors that he be permanently removed from any position with the school system. He signed a contract and he broke the rules. There are no second chances when children are involved.
common sense September 28, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Nice letter. Who cares.... BOTTOM LINE: He committed an illegal act. There is a consequence to every action and he sould have thought of them first beforeing pouring wine for MINORS. Even priests, nuns, rabbis, police, mayors, etc have committed crimes in the past and been prosecuted. WIth this incident being viewed by so many kids and people in general is it important to set an example too. No crime big or small goes unpunished, no matter who you are. Wesley is correct as well. No second chance when children are involved.
Bamboozle September 28, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Knowing that there is so much controversy in this topic, I applaud the Levine's for having the guts to speak out. I would also ask as parents, we think about the potential "other scenarios" that could have played out as a result of this and how lucky we are that it DIDN'T happen because someone else cared enough to report the incident to the police. Let's say, the 17 yr olds in question drank the wine, and it was enough to impair their judgement. They get behind the wheel of a car and crash it/ they get behind the wheel of a car, crash it and kill someone... they get behind the wheel of a car, crash it and the "someone" they kill is your child. Let's say Turnbull's contributions earn him nothing more than a slap on the wrist and he goes back to work. What happens when he has the "soccer team" over to his house for dinner and decides it's ok to pour them wine in private. And then the worst case scenario happens.... what then? Please be happy that we didn't have a "worst case scenario" this time.
Bamboozle September 28, 2011 at 08:42 PM
P.S. John Turnbull has lost the status of "role model" in my house.
C September 28, 2011 at 10:51 PM
FYI....Bamboozle, you just became know as an inerudite person that is always in a tizzy, throughout my home and like it or not throughout the town as well!!!!!!! So please keep your propaganda to yourself because you seam to be embarrassing yourself with your over the top antics!!!!!
Enough is enough September 29, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Why would an unmarried man with previous allegations of a shady past bring his own bottle of wine in public to meet some young boys for anything positive... We have only scratched the surface of this sick twisted web!!!! Where is Chris Hanson when we need him?????!!!!!!!!?!?!?!??? Imagine what must go on behind close doors with these baby David Beckhams. We should be united for a full investigation! The truth will ultimately come out! The innocence of soccer is being tainted!! For all the supporters look in the mirror and you will see the real monster inside.
Enough is enough September 29, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Lori and Jay Levine - This is NOT Warren so go get "I am not an Animal" hired at whatever private school you send your kids to!
get real dummies September 29, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Role Model?? Role models dont serve their students/ athletes drugs.
DAM September 30, 2011 at 12:44 AM
Wow ... It is amazing what some people will write when they don't have to sign their names ... To "Bamboozle," 2 or more 17 yr. olds shouldn't be in the same car with probationary licenses at night; the students of a South Jersey HS where 8 were crammed into an SUV and 4 died understand that ... To "Trevor," how responsible is it to refer to "more stories" without providing any evidence of them? ... And finally, the moniker "Enough is Enough" sums up THAT diatribe: Mr. Turnbull was previously married and has an adult daughter, and references to "sick twisted web," Chris Hanson [the TV reporter who catches pedophiles], "behind closed doors," "real monster," and "previous allegations of a shady past" suggest financial prosperity and the ability to survive defamation lawsuits - unless you're writing about ANOTHER John Turnbull ... Given the charge against Mr. Turnbull, Superintendent Hayes and the Board of Education have acted swiftly and appropriately ... why not let the legal process, and not backyard gossip, decide the outcome?
Bamboozle September 30, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Dear DAM the law allows one non-family member to ride in a car with a 17 yrd old with a probationary license until 11pm at night.
Lauren Harnett October 11, 2011 at 06:01 AM
Aaaaand this is called gossip. Congratulations, you're a stereotypical American.
Wesley October 11, 2011 at 07:12 AM
Aaaaand this is called a two-week late response. Congratulations, you can get the **** out of America since you have a problem here, Lauren.
Lauren Harnett October 11, 2011 at 03:22 PM
I apologize, I didn't realize the news had a time limit. And sir, please watch your language! I'm just a young college student who knows nothing, you shouldn't be filling my head with obscenities!
Tom Meredith October 12, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Enough is enough It is people like you that have driven this country to all fo the issues it faces today. Your holier than thou and I know what is best for you attitude might just ruin us yet. the fact is that John Turnbull make a mistake a serious mistake but for you to make allegations of such a dark nature when I suspect you have no interaction or knowledge of Johns character, intent, or past accomplishments and make vague disparaging to is character is irresponsible and I believe a statement of your character. My children have all interacted with John, traveled with John, and gone to dinner with John all with our permission and approval. Trust me John may be perceived as eccentric but his intentions are nowhere near the kind you have the audacity to allude to. I want people to know what I think so I will post my name here, I wonder why you chose not to.
Tom Meredith October 12, 2011 at 08:01 PM
Go ahead make fun of my spelling errors. When I get on a roll I type much faster than I should. However, YOU GET MY POINT!


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