As community awaits findings of investigation into Proctor football team, city says release of details will be limited

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The Proctor Public Schools said it canceled the high school football season in September due to allegations of student misconduct on the team. For more than a month, the Proctor Police Department in St. Louis County has been investigating.

Reports are being completed and the case will be sent to the St. Louis County Attorney’s Juvenile Office for review, according to Chief of Police Kent Gaidis.

"Everybody had the hopes that they could come up with a solution, sooner than later, to get the 40 kids who had nothing to do with it back out on the field," said Scott McLeod, a parent of a senior on the team.

Proctor is a community of around 3,000 people located just east of Duluth.

McLeod said waiting for the investigation to end and the results has been difficult on the community.

"I’ve never heard of hazing, or team misconduct, or bullying or any of that kind of stuff,” McLeod said about the program. “I think it’s sad that one isolated incident has basically ruined the whole program.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with the father of a different Proctor football player who asked that his identity not be shared.

"There’s a lot of kids on the team that didn’t even have a clue of what happened or weren’t involved the vast majority of the team wasn’t involved in what went on, it’s kind of a sad situation," the other player’s father said. "Allegedly, the incident happened outside the locker room, away from everybody, away from the coaches, away from the vast majority of the team, it’s a hard pill to swallow, when you know it’s a guilt by association thing."

Superintendent John Engelking told the Proctor School Board last week that he can’t share any specifics about the student misconduct allegations due to privacy laws.

"I’ll tell you, in all the years I’ve been involved in education, we have never taken anything more seriously," Engelking said.

Proctor police have also not shared any official details about the investigation.

Parents of players who say their sons were not involved in the alleged incident told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the entire community needs to hear more from authorities.

"It’s a drag on them, constantly being harassed, and threatened and asked; it will just be a relief to get some factual information out there versus everyone speculating," McLeod said.

Proctor High School head football coach Derek Parendo told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he was suspended from coaching during the district’s investigation. Parendo decided to step down from coaching and teaching last week.

"I had death threats, physical threats to me and the family. Kids were chanting my name in the schoolyard. Kids chanting my child’s name," Parendo said.

Parendo also wrote to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he wasn’t even at the school when the alleged incident took place.

The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office said they haven’t received a referral from Proctor Police, as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Jess Rich, a Proctor city administrator, released the following statement on Wednesday:

"The Proctor Police Department has been working closely and cooperatively with the St. Louis Count Attorney’s Juvenile Office and Proctor School Officials in investigating the allegations to bring resolution to this serious matter. The investigation is nearing completion and the Proctor Police Department is expecting to forward the reports generated by the investigation to the county attorney’s office soon. We respectfully remind the public and press that despite intense media and public interest, this is a juvenile matter and very few details can be released, or will be released. Media queries, rumors, speculation, social media posts and unfounded reports have severely hindered and delayed this investigation and have done nothing for the well-being and privacy of those involved. We appreciate your patience while the judicial process runs its course. Information will be released in the form of a statement by the Proctor Police Department when available. In the meantime, we will not be responding to inquiries which do not comply with data practices laws. As to proper data practices requests, we will respond appropriately when we can, and provide what we can."