Duluth East High School coach on leave, under investigation since Saturday

The head football coach for Duluth East High School is under investigation after an incident on Saturday.

KSTP’s sister station WDIO initially reported on Tuesday that Joe Hietala, the head football coach for Duluth East High School, is on administrative leave after he was believed to have been intoxicated while inside the school over the weekend. The school district did not specify whether the leave was paid or not.

According to Duluth police, officers were called to Duluth East High School at around 11:43 a.m. Saturday on a report that Hietala was apparently intoxicated inside the school during a volleyball tournament and several people wanted him removed. Officers responded and talked with Hietala, who then voluntarily left the property on foot, the department says. He wasn’t arrested and isn’t facing charges, police say.

A representative for Duluth East sent a statement to WDIO, saying, “The school district remains committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and community members. We take all allegations seriously and are conducting a thorough and impartial investigation to gather all necessary facts and information related to the matter.”

It went on to say, “The school district is committed to a fair and expeditious resolution of this matter. We assure our students, parents, staff, and community that we will take appropriate actions based on the
findings of the investigation. The safety and well-being of our students remain our top priority. We will continue to provide updates as the investigation progresses and appreciate the community’s patience and understanding during this process.”

Bryan Kallevig and Joel Brekken will serve as interim coaches for the team as the 2023 season continues, according to an announcement from Duluth East Principal Kelly Flohaug and Duluth East Activities Director Shawn Roed.

Flohaug asked players to focus on what is in their control and leave the rest up to the school and district leaders as the investigation unfolds.

“We have full faith in Coach Kallvig and Coach Brekken to lead this program during this difficult time. We ask players, parents, and the community to give their full support to these interim head coaches,” said Flohaug.