David Flynn, former head football coach at Dedham High School, Mass. has settled a civil rights lawsuit against his former employers at Dedham Public Schools, according to watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Background information from Judicial Watch:
David Flynn was a popular, winning high school football coach for Dedham High School until he voiced his concerns to the Dedham School District about his daughter's seventh grade World History curriculum containing elements of Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter propaganda.
In the Fall of 2020, concerned about the abrupt change in curriculum, Flynn and his wife contacted the history teacher and principal of the school – then later Superintendent Michael J. Welch and three members of the Dedham School Committee.
The Flynns asked for assistance in resolving the issues with the curriculum on more than one occasion.
The Flynns’ list of concerns according to the lawsuit, included the following:
- Dedham Public Schools changed the curriculum of the seventh-grade history class without notifying parents or having a course description and syllabus available for parents to review
- The new seventh-grade history class curriculum containing coursework on politics, race, gender equality, and diversity that were not suitable for twelve- and thirteen-year-olds
- The seventh-grade history teacher not teaching topics of politics, race, gender equality, and diversity objectively
- The seventh-grade history teacher using a cartoon character of herself wearing a t-shirt supporting a controversial political movement
- The seventh-grade history teacher using class materials that labeled all police officers as risks to all black people and all black males as risks to white people
Ultimately, the Flynns removed both of their daughters from the school district and sent them to a local private school.
Then, in January 2021, Flynn, who had been the head football coach at Dedham High School (DHS) since 2011, was called into a meeting with Supt. Welch, as well as the DHS principal and athletic director.
At the meeting, Welch handed Flynn one of the emails Flynn had written to the Dedham School Committee members and informed him that one of the committee members asked Welch, “What are we going to do about this?”
At the end of the meeting Flynn was told that they “were going in adifferent direction” with the football program. Minutes later, the superintendent, high school principal, and athletic director released a public statement saying that Flynn had been removed as head football coach because he “expressed significant philosophical differences with the direction, goals, and values of the school district.”
Judicial Watch filed a civil lawsuit in February on behalf of Flynn in the US Court for the District of Massachusetts, seeking damages against the superintendent, high school principal, and high school athletic director for retaliating against Flynn for exercising his First Amendment rights.
As part of the recent settlement, Welch acknowledged “the important and valid issues” raised by Flynn and made specific changes in school policies because of Flynn’s complaint, including banning teachers from promoting Black Lives Matter to students online.
Read settlement statement here and below:
I hope you and your family are well. I am writing this letter to acknowledge the important and valid issues you raised regarding the Dedham Public Schools and the subsequent lawsuit you filed in federal court. I am pleased that we are able to amicably settle this matter after the recently filed appeal of the court’s decision.
First and foremost, I want to acknowledge and validate the concerns you initially raised regarding your daughter’s experiences at Dedham Middle School. You had every right to inquire about these issues, and you followed the appropriate steps in attempting to learn more. You correctly pointed out that the 7th grade social studies curriculum had significantly changed and parents were not informed of these changes. In probing this matter further, you discovered that the district’s website did not accurately reflect the new curriculum content, and parents were unable to understand what was being taught. Your legitimate questions prompted additional conversations at the School Committee level that ultimately led to the establishment of a Curriculum Advisory Committee that now brings together parents, community members, and district educators to broadly review and more thoroughly communicate curriculum changes and concerns. Curriculum updates are a necessary and important part of the work of school districts, and effectively communicating these improvements is a critical component of this process.
Your initial inquiry triggered a larger internal conversation about the district’s oversight in the teaching of these new curriculum units. More specifically, the sequencing of the curriculum’s identity unit and the virtual use of a Black Lives Matter emoji t-shirt by a teacher sparked a series of intense conversations about teacher autonomy and the importance of balanced messaging and viewpoints in the classroom. As you pointed out, positive intentions can often have unintended negative impacts on students. Ultimately, I directed staff to remove these t-shirt emojis and instructed them to not wear these in the classroom in the future.
Finally, I understand that after you raised these concerns at the classroom level, you left that initial conversation expecting to hear directly from the building principal. It appears this was unclear within the school and you did not hear back in a timely manner. I am sorry for this breakdown. Effective two-way dialogue among parents and school staff is the foundation of mutual trust. While we pride ourselves on this connection, in this particular instance this fueled frustration and identified room for improvement.
I regret that these initial justifiable concerns ultimately led to where we are today. As you have indicated, I appreciate your recognition of the opportunity to have improved the trajectory of this sequence. With this settlement, I hope we are able to put any divisions behind us and begin the important work of healing through better conversations and listening.
I recognize the school district’s opportunity to improve based upon the issues you have identified, and I thank you for raising them. As educators, I believe we can always learn from our experiences. Thank you for your many years of dedicated commitment to the development of student-athletes in Dedham.
Michael J. Welch
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