Road to recovery winds on for Northern Virginia youth coach Sean Lanigan
By Charles Boehm
Last year Sean Lanigan survived the sort of ordeal that constitutes a coach or educator’s worst nightmare. Long a notable coach on the Northern Virginia elite youth soccer scene, Lanigan was accused of sexual assault by a student at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Centreville, Va., where he’d been a well-respected teacher for 12 years, in January.
With his resulting arrest, unpaid suspension from the Fairfax County Public Schools system and trial for aggravated sexual battery and abduction, Lanigan saw his life – and that of his entire family – rocked to its foundations, not only emotionally but also financially.
The charges turned out to be categorically false, the fabrication of an adolescent looking for a way to avoid facing discipline for bullying other students. In May a jury threw out the case against Lanigan after deliberating for less than an hour, in a ruling one member called “an easy decision.”
But while he’s made a happy return to the sidelines of his club teams, Lanigan’s life has yet to return to true normalcy, as he revealed in a recent interview with Potomac Soccer Wire. Beyond the devastation wreaked on his reputation, his legal expenses and lost income have run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and he continues to struggle to regain his standing within FCPS. The district has resisted his attempts to get his previous job responsibilities back and court proceedings regarding his financial restitution are still ongoing.
“It’s kind of a forgotten thing – I still am fighting a big battle with the school system to try and get my money back,” said Lanigan. “It’s not going so well. So I’m doing what I can do. There are some battles that I can’t really go into that are being fought right now, kind of behind the scenes, and one day hopefully it will be resolved.”
Despite Lanigan’s acquittal, he was transferred within the FCPS system upon his return, which threw his family’s schedule into disarray and forced his wife to change her job as well. To his frustration, he remains on a part-time schedule at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va. and must wait – and hope – for a positive outcome to the prolonged legal wrangling between his attorneys and those of the school system. He says he’s been interviewed at length by the Washington Post and is confident that the newspaper’s future coverage will further vindicate his side of the story.
“It’s been a hell of an ordeal,” said Lanigan, “but truth will prevail in the end.”