Officials reportedly said the coach ‘expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district’
What’s the background?
Flynn — who became Dedham High School’s head football coach in 2011 and attended the school himself — raised issues last fall about his seventh-grade daughter’s World Geography and Ancient History class, which the lawsuit says had been billed as covering “geography and civilizations, Rome, Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America, and South America.”
But Flynn and his wife discovered the class was teaching far different things, the lawsuit adds.
“Instead, the instruction concerned issues of race, gender, stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and politics, among others,” the lawsuit claims. “In one assignment, Plaintiff’s daughter was asked to consider various ‘risk factors’ and ‘mitigating factors’ that two people — one identified as ‘white’ and the other identified as ‘black’ — purportedly might use to assess each other on a city street. Included among the various factors were skin color, gender, age, physical appearance, and attire. ‘Black,’ ‘aggressive body language’ and ‘wrong neighborhood’ were among the ‘risk factors’ purportedly assessed by the person identified as ‘white.’ ‘White’ and ‘Police officer’ were among the ‘risk factors’ purportedly assessed by the person identified as ‘black.'”
The lawsuit also says Flynn and his wife saw in the instruction materials a “cartoon version of their daughter’s teacher — a ‘Memoji’ — wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt,” which the couple “reasonably interpreted as the teacher expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement during class time.”
What happened next?
The lawsuit says Flynn and his wife contacted the teacher and the principal, adding that while the principal responded, the couple didn’t feel their concerns had been adequately addressed
On Oct. 14, Flynn and his wife emailed Superintendent Michael J. Welch stating their concerns, asking for his assistance, and noting that other parents shared the couple’s concerns, the lawsuit states. Flynn also forwarded the same email to three members of the Dedham School Committee: Vice-Chairperson Tracey White, Steve Bilafer, and Mayanne MacDonald Briggs, the lawsuit adds.
Flynn and his wife met with Welch at his invitation on Oct. 23 to discuss their concerns, the lawsuit says, but the couple still didn’t feel their concerns were adequately addressed. So that day Flynn emailed the same Dedham School Committee members he previously contacted and summarized the couple’s concerns and Superintendent Welch’s response.
The lawsuit notes how Flynn concluded his email:
The Superintendent has had the opportunity to make sure the Dedham teachers conduct themselves as professionals and to teach the courses objectively and without biased opinions. He chose not to. I believe that the real men and women in the world are the ones who have the ability to compromise, especially in extremely controversial situations. Compromise allows people to experience life as a team. This is where unity brings individual pride together and relationships begin to strengthen. I believe all relationships are based on compromise. The Superintendent was not willing to compromise. I explained to him that if the teacher teaches the course objectively and removes the BLM logo from the class, people will soon get over the fact that the class was purposely created without notifying parents and without having a visible course curriculum, syllabus and learning objective. Apparently, it does not mean much to him that the Dedham Public School System is losing two wonderful students.
In addition, the lawsuit says Flynn also forwarded his Oct. 23 email to about 20 other concerned parents, adding that “on information and belief, Vice-Chairperson White and committee members Bilafer and Briggs knew other parents had received Plaintiffs email.”
A week later, Flynn and his wife removed their children from the district and believed the issue was over, the lawsuit says.
It wasn’t over
The lawsuit says Flynn met on Jan. 20 with Welch as well as the principal of the high school, Jim Forrest, and Athletic Director Stephen Traister. At the meeting, the lawsuit claims, Welch handed Flynn a copy of the Oct. 23 email he sent to the Dedham School Committee members and noted that one of them asked the superintendent, “What are we going to do about this?” Welch then asked Flynn if he had sent the email to other parents, after which Flynn said he did, the lawsuit adds.
With that, Flynn at the meeting was told the district was “going in a different direction” with the football program, the lawsuit notes, adding that minutes after the meeting ended — and before Flynn “even returned home” — Welch, Forrest, and Traister publicly released a letter they signed to DHS football players and families stating that Flynn was out as head coach.
“We met with Mr. Flynn today because he has expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district,” the letter said, according to the lawsuit. “Due to these differences, we felt it best to seek different leadership for the program at this time.”
The lawsuit also claims the “letter plainly had been prepared in advance of the meeting with Plaintiff” and that Flynn “has never been provided any indication about the reason for his firing and/or the nonrenewal of his contract other than Superintendent Welch’s comments at the January 20, 2021 meeting about the October 23, 2020 email, and Plaintiff is aware of no other reason.”
In the aftermath, Flynn “suffered loss of earning, emotional distress, loss of reputation, and harassment as a result of being firing and/or the nonrenewal of his contract by Superintendent Welch, Principal Forrest, and Athletic Director Traister,” the lawsuit adds.
After Flynn’s firing last month, a group of students, athletes and some parents gathered outside Dedham High School to show support for him, WCVB-TV reported.
“Everyone loves coach; he gets kids to play football,” Kevin O’Leary, a former Dedham High School football player, told the station.
O’Leary added to WCVB that “Coach Flynn is an awesome guy and we’re all devastated that they fired him. Coach Flynn and Dedham football — it’s like broccoli and cheese sauce: Can’t have one without the other.”
The school district on Thursday told TheBlaze it’s aware of the lawsuit but “has no further comment at this time.”