Public Schools

The Coach Takes A Pass: Joe Kennedy Swore He Wanted His Job Back. So Where Is He?

  Rob Boston

Joe Kennedy insisted he wanted to return to his job as a Bremerton High School assistant football coach, and the Supreme Court said he could. But football season is well under way, and so far, Kennedy has been missing in action.

As you might recall, Kennedy left his job as an assistant coach at the public high school in Washington state after officials there told him to stop praying with players and students at the 50-yard-line after games. School officials offered to accommodate Kennedy’s prayers in other ways, but he declined. Instead, he decided not to re-apply for the position, lined up help from a Christian nationalist legal group and sued the school.

The Supreme Court in June ruled in Kennedy’s favor. Americans United, which represented the school district before the high court, strongly disagreed with that ruling, but of course, there was never any doubt that the district would abide by it.

Accordingly, the district reached out to Kennedy’s lawyers over the summer and sent them mandatory paperwork for Kennedy to fill out as the first step to returning to Bremerton. Kennedy, who now lives in Florida, and his attorneys have ignored it.

Asked about this matter by the media, the district replied with a statement that read in part, “On August 8, the District sent Mr. Kennedy’s lawyers all the required onboarding documents for District coaches and other employees, and the District invited Mr. Kennedy to reach out to a designated District staff member for assistance if he needed it. We had assumed that he would do his part and be back on the field when practices started on August 17. To date, the District has not received any of the necessary paperwork.”

It adds, “Despite the District’s ongoing efforts to get Mr. Kennedy back on the field and resolve the case, his lawyers insist on a closed-door meeting. But the District is a public body; it can’t do backroom deals to compromise the rights of its students, families, and staff. … The District is eager to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling and amicably resolve this matter, but it cannot do so until it hears back from Mr. Kennedy and his lawyers. Whatever Mr. Kennedy or his lawyers may be saying, so far they just aren’t taking any steps to resolve the case.”

So, what has Kennedy, who once claimed he’d return to Bremerton “as soon as a plane could take him there” if he won his case, been doing? Well, he has been making appearances at conferences sponsored by Christian nationalist groups, accepting awards and hanging out with people like evangelist Franklin Graham and former Vice President Mike Pence.

AU President and CEO Rachel Laser told the Independent, “The latest chapter in this seven-year saga makes clear that for Kennedy and his lawyers, this case was about pushing coercive prayer into public schools and undermining church-state separation – not about a coach regaining his position.”

Can anyone say they’re surprised?

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