Dedham Football Coach Sues School Officials, Says Objections To Black Lives Matter Material Led To Firing

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A high school football coach fired after raising objections to pro-Black Lives Matter material in his daughter’s seventh grade history class has sued school officials in Dedham, claiming they violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

Dave Flynn, who had served as head football coach at Dedham High School since 2011, was informed he would not be reappointed as coach on January 20, about three months after he raised objections about the class. Flynn also forwarded an email message about his objections to three members of the Dedham School Committee and to about 20 other parents.

Classes in Dedham public schools have been held online this year instead of in person because of concerns about coronavirus.

The class that led to the dispute is called “World Geography and Ancient History I,” but Flynn and his wife saw online instruction from the teacher dealing with “race, gender, stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, and politics,” according to a complaint filed Tuesday, February 16 in U.S. District Court in Boston. Instruction materials included a cartoon version of the teacher wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, according to the complaint, filed under the auspices of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal advocacy organization.

The complaint also states:


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.”


Flynn and his wife contacted the teacher and the principal. The principal responded, but the Flynns weren’t satisfied, so they contacted the superintendent of schools. That meeting didn’t accomplish what they wanted, either, so the Flynns withdrew their two children from the town’s school system.

Flynn also sent an email message to three members of the Dedham School Committee – the elected seven-member board that oversees the town’s public school system – expressing his frustration with what he described as the superintendent’s unwillingness 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,” Flynn wrote in the email message October 23, which is quoted in the complaint.

On Wednesday, January 20 – almost three months later – the superintendent again met with Flynn, this time with the high school’s principal and athletic director. The superintendent handed Flynn a copy of Flynn’s email message of October 23 and a copy of an email message from a school committee member asking the superintendent “What are we going to do about this?”

Under Massachusetts law, the school committee has the authority to hire and fire the superintendent of schools and to set policy for the district, but does not have authority over the day-to-day affairs of the schools.

When Flynn acknowledged that he had sent the October 23 email message to the school committee members, the superintendent told him his contract would not be renewed. That was 33 days before Dedham’s coronavirus-altered winter football season was scheduled to begin, on February 22.

School officials shortly afterward sent out a letter to parents stating in part:


We are also writing today and are sorry to inform you that Dave Flynn will not be reappointed as the Head Coach of Dedham High School football. We met with Mr. Flynn today because he has 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.


Flynn was employed in Dedham under a series of one-year contracts. Coaches’ stipends are included in the collective bargaining agreement worked out by the school district and the local teachers union. Flynn’s stipend for fiscal year 2020, which includes the fall 2019 football season, was $9,749.53, a school official said.

Flynn maintains the termination of his employment by Dedham school officials violated his right to speak freely about a matter that did not pertain to his job as a football coach.

“Defendants, acting under color of Massachusetts law, deprived Plaintiff of his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by firing Plaintiff and/or failing to renew his contract as DHS’s head football coach in retaliation for exercising his right to petition. The firing and/or nonrenewal constitutes an adverse employment action,” Flynn’s lawsuit complaint states.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, says the termination of Flynn’s contract reflects intolerance on the Left.

“Cancel culture has come to high school football. Coach Flynn was fired for exercising his constitutional rights to object as a citizen and father to an extremist and racially inflammatory school curriculum in his child’s history class,” Fitton said in a written statement Tuesday.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday names three school officials as individual defendants:  Michael Welch, the superintendent of schools; James Forrest, the principal of Dedham High School; and Stephen Traister, the athletic director of Dedham High School. It does not name the Dedham Public Schools as a defendant.

Flynn is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages” in addition to attorney’s fees and costs, according to the complaint.

Welch, Forrest, and Traister could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Neither Flynn nor lawyers representing him could immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Dedham is a middle class town of about 25,000 people in Massachusetts about 10 miles southwest of Boston.

Dedham went more heavily for Joe Biden in November 2020 than the rest of the state did. In Dedham, Biden defeated Donald Trump, 67.3 to 29.9 percent. (The 37.4-point margin is more than the margin statewide in Massachusetts, which was 65.6 percent to 32.1 percent, or 33.5 percentage points.)

Flynn’s firing sparked protests in Dedham, including a rally outside the high school in late January covered by WCVB-TV Channel 5.

Flynn grew up in Dedham. He graduated from Dedham High School in 1989.

He was a star on the football team, scoring all 20 points – including a 32-yard field goal – in an upset of Walpole in October 1987 that made The Boston Globe. Dedham went undefeated during the regular season his senior year in 1988, losing in the Super Bowl that year to powerhouse Brockton. Flynn earned a write-up in the Globe for his outstanding performance on offense, defense, and placekicking during that game.

He played fullback at Division III Union College in New York, graduating in 1993.

He works as a special education teacher at Braintree High School, where he also served as head football coach from 2006 to 2011, before coming to Dedham as head football coach.

Dedham went 1-10 the year before he took over. Since 2017, the team has gone 19-14, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff rebuilt his hometown team by dedicating his life to his players,” Flynn’s complaint states. “He not only gives them a substantial amount of his time on the field but also provides rides and equipment to players in need. Plaintiff also is supportive of all members of the community. He invited a female student to join the JV football team and welcomed a student with special needs to serve as team manager. He is well-liked and highly respected among parents and students.”

Flynn was still listed as head football coach on Dedham High School’s web site as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 17, as these two screenshot images from the school’s Coaches Directory show: