DURHAM, CONN. — A football coach has been fired after punishing a child for allegedly bullying one of his teammates. The bullying happened at school. Todd Kennedy, the former head coach of a Durham Middlefield Football team, says he wanted the kids to know that bullying would not be tolerated.
The team is made up of kids in grades 4 through 6. Two of Kennedy’s sons were on the team.
Kennedy says he’d first talked to the entire team about bullying, but when he’d heard that it happened again, he addressed the alleged bully in front of the team last week. The boy denied it, but Kennedy had him run a few laps around the field. Kennedy says afterward he praised the boy for running the laps without complaining.
The league’s board was not happy with the way Kennedy handled the situation.
“[One of the board members] said why did you feel that you were qualified to handle this bullying incident? I’m like because I’m a father,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy was suspended the following morning, and then fired on Monday. He says the board voted unanimously that he could not continue to volunteer as the team’s coach.
“You start questioning yourself, absolutely,” said Kennedy.
He says if one of his own kids was bullying another, he’d have no problem with another coach handling it the way he did. He also feels badly that he wasn’t able to explain what happened to his team.
“They never heard from me, so now you’ve got these children that I’ve been coaching since August and all of a sudden their coach just disappears,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s two sons no longer play on the team, and they aren’t the only ones. Shannon Riso’s son is also off the team. She believes the board was wrong to fire Kennedy.
“Bullying is okay – that’s the message I got,” said Riso. “That’s why my son is not going to play for them. I want him to be around better role models than that.”
Kennedy says he was never trained on how to handle bullying as a coach, so he handled it the best way he could. Now he feels like he’s being treated unfairly because of it.
“What I’m going to miss the most is seeing what we would have done this year, seeing if we would have gotten to the championship game,” said Kennedy.