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Family of northern Minnesota school assault victim files lawsuit against district, former coaches

They are seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

File: Proctor football
A lawsuit claims complaints were made about the Proctor football program “on multiple occasions over the course of many years.”
Clint Austin / 2019 file / Duluth News Tribune
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PROCTOR, Minn. — Nearly a year after it was first reported, the family of the victim in a hazing incident following a 2021 Proctor football practice are suing the school district and the former superintendent and coaching staff.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court Friday makes several allegations regarding a Sept. 6, 2021, incident following practice that resulted in the cancellation of football season, a sexual assault conviction for former Proctor player Alec Baney and the resignation of coach Derek Parendo . Baney, 18, was sentenced in June to supervised probation until his 21st birthday after pleading guilty in juvenile court to a felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

DEREK PARENDO.jpg
Proctor's head football coach Derek Parendo talks to his players at practice Sept. 21, 2021.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

Following the practice last fall, Baney sexually assaulted the victim with a plunger while several other teammates held him down.

The News Tribune is not naming the victim's parents in keeping with its policy of withholding the identity of sexual assault victims.
The suit alleges that “prior to, and during” Parendo’s time as coach there was a “prevalent practice” of hazing rituals involving a toilet plunger. The practice allegedly included using the rubber portion to touch a victim’s genital area. Another practice included “urinating into the concave portion” of the plunger, suctioning it to the ceiling and asking an unsuspecting player to pull it down, the lawsuit claims.

The practice was brought to the attention of the district, former Superintendent John Engelking, the activities director and guidance counselors “on multiple occasions over the course of many years,” according to the complaint.

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In addition, the district allegedly instructed Parendo prior to last year's incident to remove the plunger from the locker room and advise the team hazing would not be tolerated.

The suit alleges the district and Parendo did not take “adequate measures” to remove the plunger from the locker room and ensure that hazing activities ceased.

The suit acknowledges Parendo was not at the Sept. 6 practice and it was conducted by unnamed assistants.

After the weather ended the practice early, the assistants did not remain at the facility while the players changed. After a brief chase, the victim was tackled and held down by several players while another sexually assaulted him with the plunger, the complaint said.

The assault was “offensive, unwanted and interfered with” the victim’s educational environment and deprived him of the educational opportunities provided by the district.

The complaint also alleges that all the defendants “condoned student-on-student sexual and physical” harassment by downplaying the incidents and failing to educate staff and student-athletes about the dangers of hazing.

The victim “suffered embarrassment, humiliation, fear of retaliation, intimidation, breach of trust, anxiety, depression, pain and suffering,” according to the complaint.

The family is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.

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Parendo, who filed to run for Proctor School Board on Aug. 16, declined to comment for this article. A message left with Engelking was not returned.

A 2021 News Tribune investigation found a pattern of harassment and bullying by Proctor football players stretching back nearly 30 years, but no incidents involved a toilet plunger.

MORE ABOUT THE PROCTOR FOOTBALL TEAM
Former coach Derek Parendo claimed no knowledge of the most recent allegations of serious misconduct by Proctor football players.
According to data requested by the News Tribune, Parendo had five complaints made to the school district against him, ranging from 2007 to October 2021.
Despite allegations of misconduct regarding the Proctor football team, the students have embraced the school’s other teams during the past few weeks and are looking forward to Friday’s girls soccer game against Hermantown.
The district told parents in an email it would “take action against substantiated misconduct” and would “address any and all problems in the football program.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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