Wednesday, June 9, 2021

May Flower: Spring Practice

"Did questioning his daughter’s world history course make David Flynn unfit to coach football?; The controversy opens a local front in the ongoing culture war waged in public schools across the country over critical race theory" by Joan Vennochi Globe Columnist, May 5, 2021

David Flynn was a popular Dedham High School football coach with a winning record — and the father of a Dedham seventh-grader — when he raised concerns about his daughter’s world history curriculum. A few months later, his contract was not renewed and he lost his coaching job.

In a federal lawsuit filed against three Dedham school administrators, Flynn claims his termination was punishment for objecting to the course material and therefore violated his First Amendment rights. “This was a straightforward retaliation claim, where someone complained about an issue in their school and they were fired for it,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group representing Flynn in court, told me.

Flynn and his wife were questioning a course that was called “World Geography and Ancient History,” but, according to the complaint, it focused instead on race, gender, and discrimination issues and was taught by a teacher who was allegedly using an avatar of herself wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. The controversy opens a local front in the ongoing culture war waged in public schools across the country over critical race theory, an academic framework that analyzes how racism is woven into American institutions and life, but it comes with an interesting twist: Did raising concerns as a parent make Flynn unfit to coach football in Dedham?

The school system denies that’s what happened, but, according to a letter cited in the lawsuit, which was publicly released at the time of Flynn’s termination and signed by the three defendants, Dedham parents and football players were told that Flynn “expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district. Due to these differences, we felt it best to seek different leadership for the program at this time.” The letter didn’t specify what values were at issue, but hypothetically speaking, what if a parent-coach expressed concerns about a teacher who created an avatar sporting a red MAGA hat? Whose job would be on the line then?

Dedham school officials didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Brian E. Lewis, the lawyer representing the three defendants — Dedham Superintendent Michael J. Welch, Dedham High School principal Jim Forrest, and athletic director Stephen Traister — e-mailed a copy of the answer filed in response to the suit. In it, the defendants deny the allegations but say that even if true, there was “a superseding state interest” in making the decision at issue in the complaint.

Harvey Silverglate, a lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases, said the lawsuit is among several filed “around the country by plaintiffs who claim to be victimized by the increasing politicization of education.” In his view, it has “a rough uphill climb because the school has a very broad pedagogical authority,” but does that authority also mean that every faculty member and coach must share the same political view? “I guess the outcome might turn on which persona emerges as the primary one — coach or parent,” said Silverglate.

So far, there’s no evidence Flynn imposed his politics on the locker room. What he did was build a successful football program. The year before he was hired, the team had a 1-10 season. Since 2017, the team has compiled an overall 19-14 record. As a coach, Flynn seemed to be well-liked and respected.....

At least he didn't create a Holocau$t™ like the coach in Duxbury, who had a win-at-all-costs, leave-it-all-on-the-field style of play that helped mask a very different team culture, and that wasn't all that was wrong at the school:

"The superintendent of the Duxbury school system is leaving the district with two years left in his contract after back-to-back controversies rocked the South Shore town this spring. He has been appointed to the top job in the North Attleborough schools, pending contract negotiations. John Antonucci’s four-year tenure at the helm of the Duxbury Public Schools ended turbulently, after two scandals this spring prompted the firing of two of the high school’s championship-winning varsity coaches. Dave Maimaron, the high school’s popular but controversial football coach, was dismissed after players used Holocaust-related play calls during a game in March. The Globe also found that Maimaron fostered an unprofessional and vulgar culture over his 15-year run as head coach. Within two weeks came an unrelated crisis of even greater proportions: A Duxbury family accused John Blake — a physical education teacher who also coached the Duxbury boys hockey team since 2003 — of repeatedly sexually assaulting their son in the mid-2000s, creating a life of addiction and torment that ended in his death by overdose at age 27....."

That's a major misconduct, and can you imagine the mental health crisis the kid must have had after being left to fend for himself?