Players on the Eden Prarie basketball team listen as the district's school board hears the concerns that caused some of them to quit. (Jasmine McBride/BLCK Press)
Parents, students and allies packed an Eden Prairie School District board meeting to voice their ongoing concerns over the high school’s basketball coach, who was reinstated after using the N-word with players.
Flom was suspended from coaching this past December after using the N-word during a team meeting while telling students how to behave on social media. The school said it would conduct an investigation, but parents say Flom later returned to work without any explanation from the school administration. Several students have quit the team in protest.
Parents and students used the public comment section of the board meeting to criticize what they believe is bad leadership.
Parent Michael Minta, who’s been at all of the protests for the affected players, says this is not a question of whether the coach is a good or bad person, but who is the best person to lead these students within a diverse district in a way that is empowering. He cited multiple examples where a controversial coach stepped down for the sake of the team.
“So if the coach truly cares about a team that's been divided – because the players didn’t divide the team, the coach divided the team – if we really want to move on and lead this diverse district, then we need someone who's culturally competent that can lead these young men. We're talking about now and into the future.”.
Community member and former Eden Prairie School district staff member Krystal Queen says this matter contradicts the district's policies.
“Our district's mission is ‘we inspire each student every day,’ but do we? This district, our community, is rapidly changing. Our policy says we have zero tolerance for harassment, but in reality, that only applies to the moderate marginalized community. Is one white man's job more important than the multiple minority students that have quit, which could have helped drive options for their future?”
Mercy Ndugu, mother of Eden Prairie High school student Tyler Nduulu says her son has demonstrated longtime dedication to his love for basketball. Ndugu says that more than a sport was taken from her son.
“Playing basketball is one of the best ways to practice overcoming adversity and preparing to handle tough times in life,” she said. “And as such, a basketball coach should be someone who instills and reinforces good sportsmanship, teamwork, positive attitude and respect. The coach has failed athletes of color by demeaning them and making them feel less than their peers. He has divided the basketball team and his presence continues to make it difficult–very difficult for the healing to occur and for everybody to move on.”
Her son Tyler also spoke at the board meeting.
“I could feel the tension between team players who were angry and shocked, and those who just seemed dismissive. The coach’s actions and presence continued to make it difficult to move and heal. Part of me feels like an opportunity was taken away from me due to the coach's action in December, and his lack of sensitivity to people of color.”
Tyler Nduulu said that if David Flom resigned, he would consider coming back to play.
Farah Yusef interpreted for her mother, who doesn’t speak English. The mother said Basketball has always helped ground her son and keep him focused. She said this situation has caused immense stress, but when she went to the coach to express concern, she said she was met with disrespect.
“What I was met with was nothing short of harassment, discrimination on the basis of my race and my inability to speak. I stood there as I was being yelled at, scolded and refused a meeting. If as a parent, I can be treated like that in front of a whole entire audience. How did my son feel behind closed doors?”
The Eden Prairie school board did not offer any response to public comment. The only public communication that has been made on behalf of the Eden Prairie School district has been through an attorney.
Parents said they are compiling their own report of discriminatory behavior at the school over the years.