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Bill seeks to protect high school coaches from parents

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Should high school coaches face being fired if a few parents don't like them? Many coaches say that's become a trend over the past few years, and a state lawmaker is stepping in.

Coaches who spoke with FOX 9 News say they usually struggle with a small group of parents -- maybe even just one or two -- who start spreading rumors and allegations simply because they don't like the coach. That means that for team leaders, it's not just about winning and losing -- it's also about how you play the parents.

Even a coach who wins games can lose their jobs if they lose the parents:

Gary Stefano was let go after 17 years of coaching hockey at Maple Grove after some players allegedly watched a sex act at a party.

Jeff Pauletti resigned from his post as the Roseville Hockey Coach amid allegations that he bullied players.

Yet, other coaches say it's all a smokescreen hiding the truth that parents have become bullies who are effectively executing power plays inside schools.

In fact, it's gotten so bad that Minnesota Rep. Dean Urdahl is stepping in with a bill to protect all high school coaches by ensuring that "parent complaints must not be the sole reason" for not renewing a coach's contract.

"This is really about removing the focus from parents and back to the student athlete where it belongs and really empowering school boards in a way," said Urdahl.

At the boy's state hockey tournament, many moms and dads wondered why it would take a change in state law to protect coaches -- although some suggested that job security should have more to do with game stats.

Yet, the parents who travel to games, pay for camps and activities fees can begin to feel like general managers -- and the problem isn't limited to hockey or even to Minnesota. In Connecticut, a high school basketball coach was reinstated on Wednesday after he was forced to resign over a raunchy he made 20 years ago called "Forbidden Fruit." The parent who led the charge had a child on the team who wasn't getting much time on the court.

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