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DULUTH – Bullying, harassment and threats against his family played a big part in his choice to step down this week, said former Proctor High School football coach and teacher Derek Parendo.

The team’s head coach since 2008, Parendo says he was watching his daughter play football in another city at the time of an alleged incident so egregious that it led to the cancellation of the entire football season and to a police investigation which entered its fourth week with no resolution.

“We feel thrown out there to be a scapegoat,” Parendo said.

A 1992 graduate of Proctor who played high school football, Parendo said he was unsure of what happened in the post-practice incident on a September afternoon. He is not the subject of a police investigation and awaits the results of the police work like everyone else, he said. He was briefed on the allegations by the high school principal, he said, and days later he was suspended.

On Monday, he resigned his teaching and coaching duties and is on paid personal leave for the remainder of the school year. He says he was treated unfairly by the district administration for years, and this case was no different.

“I have been painted as guilty because when you send home a letter saying that you are looking for new leadership, you point your finger at me to begin with,” he said of a communication sent by the district to football families.

Superintendent John Engelking did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. District officials cited privacy laws throughout the investigation, revealing only that “serious” student misconduct was alleged and is being investigated by the college. local police.

Engelking previously said in a public statement: “We will take action against proven malpractice and we will fix all problems with the football program; we are absolutely confident that when the program resumes next season we will be RailStrong representing our families, school and community in a positive way on and off the pitch and doing the right thing at all times. “

Parendo said he was the target of death threats as a result of the investigation and slanderous taunts from students at the school. He said his daughter had also been the target of harassment. One incident at school this week that included chanting about him and his daughter was the last straw, he said.

Matt Berger, a former Proctor Boys basketball coach and college teacher who worked with Parendo, said Parendo’s resignation was “putting the team, the school and the whole community before him.”

“Honestly, I think the fastest way to start the community healing process was to get him to quit and let the program start over,” Berger said. “It was a selfless thing for him to do.”

The allegations do not coincide with the culture Parendo says he promoted among his players: a culture of discipline and responsibility. He calls this an “isolated incident”.

The allegation “destroys me,” said Parendo, assistant coach at Proctor under the late Dave Hylla, as coaches are constantly working to build character in their players. “We talk all the time about how you are a part of Proctor football. People don’t know your name; you are part of a group. You do things for other people, not for yourself.”

Although this has not been confirmed as an act of hazing, Parendo said the hazing “is so foreign to us.”

“I don’t know of any coach who talks about it or takes care of it,” he said. “For me it’s old culture, [past] generations. “

Parendo said he took a construction job this week to keep busy.

A City of Proctor administrator said the investigation is expected to end this week.

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450

Correction:
Previous versions of this story twisted the Proctor High School graduation year of former Proctor football coach Derek Parendo. It was in 1992.


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