One-On-One: Now-Resigned Proctor Football Coach Calls District ‘Toxic’ Amid Investigation into Players
Parendo has been the target of backlash on social media for the investigation into criminal activity by his former players.
PROCTOR, Minn. – “I resigned because of the toxic environment at Proctor,” former football coach Derek Parendo said.
Parendo says the school was no longer a safe place for him to be after misconduct allegations against some of his football players became public. He told FOX 21’s Sam Ali about a specific incident that happened outside of the school that pushed him over the edge.
“There’s kids out there chanting my name, some very harmful things. They chanted my daughter’s name as well, who’s a student there. And at that point I knew it wasn’t good to be there anymore,” said Parendo.
Parendo says the environment at Proctor stems from several years of mistreatment from the administration, which he believes is due to his Native American background.
“I don’t see any results. I don’t get any answers. I just felt zero support out there. I feel my name has been slandered for 14 years,” Parendo said.
Parendo says he was made aware of the incident one week after it occurred. When asked by Proctor police as to where he was on that day and time, he said that on September 8th, he left practice early to be at his daughter’s soccer game in Cloquet, which began at 4:45 p.m.
“Most of us have families and we try to work hard to allow the coaches time to go see their kids’ stuff and we work around it,” said Parendo.
Parendo added that the police had told him they had no reason to believe that he had any knowledge about what happened. Despite that, the district suspended Parendo a few days after all football activities were paused.
“If they’re waiting to wait for the Proctor police to be done with their investigation to come out and do whatever the school needs to do, why did they jump the gun with me?” asked Parendo.
When I asked him about a report from a Twin Cities TV station that the incident involved a group of players sodomizing one of their younger teammates and it was filmed and circulated on social media, he says it was the first time he has ever heard about it.
“Literally the first time was when you told me right now. I’ve never heard that,” Parendo said.
Parendo has not reached out to any members of the Proctor football team since activities were paused on September 21st, which was the first time the public was made aware of the allegations. But he says some have sent him texts and e-mails, frustrated with the situation and how it has been handled. I asked if he would eventually reach out to the victim.
“If this happened, as what popular belief is, yeah I would definitely reach out to him and talked to him and hopefully know that I didn’t have anything to do with it and neither did any of the coaches. We would never allow this to knowingly happen or continue or endorse or anything like that,” said Parendo.
Many in the community say Parendo should be taking full responsibility for what happened with his players. But he feels he shouldn’t because it was an isolated incident.
“What happens if a kid brought a gun into the locker room and shot it up? I didn’t know it was going to happen. I had no prior clue. We don’t endorse that behavior. If you’re blaming me as a head coach, then why isn’t it the principal and the superintendent for creating the environment at school for this? I mean, where does it stop?” Parendo said.
And to those who say that Parendo has fostered an environment that would lead to something like this happening, he says that they are ignorant and have never been a part of their program.
“That’s about as clear-cut as you want. If you go ask any of the football players over the last 14 years what our environment is like. We’ve never had any previous behaviors that would be out of line, per se, with anything like this. It just seems like it was such a far-reaching, egregious act. I look at it as I don’t know what I could’ve done different,” said Parendo.
Parendo says he’s convinced he may never get another coaching or teaching job in the future and it’s due to the reaction on social media that allows the public to speculate before the details come out.
“I’d love to take all of the stories I’ve seen on Facebook and put them right next to each other. None of them are the same. It’s like what are people doing? You’re just making stuff up. It’s not a nice place right now and I just decided to get out,” said Parendo.
Proctor’s superintendent John Engelking had no comment on Parendo’s accusations against the district. The district has also not said if any disciplinary action has been taken against the players attached to the incident, but that they’re fully cooperating with the investigation. Proctor’s city administrator tells FOX 21 the police department is expected to wrap up its investigation later this week before possible charges are filed with the St. Louis County attorney’s office.