A head high school cheerleading coach was allegedly fired because he’s gay, but now his team are rallying to “save coach Mike”.
Michael Henderson, 31, has retained an attorney and is launching a wrongful termination lawsuit against Murrieta Valley High School (MVHS), California, claiming he was fired after working there for three years because of his sexual orientation on 16 June, 2021.
According to Patch, Henderson said that eight days before he was fired, he’d had a “glowing” end-of-season review from the school’s athletic director Darin Mott and principal Ryan Tukua, and that his dismissal came as a “shock”.
On 10 June, he was told by the athletic director that there had been an anonymous complaint about him, and he was being investigated.
He said: “I never saw the letter. I wasn’t even given a chance to respond. I was never interviewed about any of it.”
With little information on what was going on, two days later he was fired, and told that the school’s cheer programme “was taking a different direction”.
But one parent, Kim Altenhofel, president of the MVHS cheer booster club, said she was contacted twice by the principal and once by the school district in relation to allegations of verbal and mental abuse.
She added that she had never heard of any abuse, and that the coach’s students were “heartbroken”.
Henderson’s attorney Terry Davis told Patch that he and his client believe he was dismissed because of his sexual orientation, and that the belief stemmed from questions asked of parents during the “improper” investigation.
He added: “The anonymous letter was sent to [the school district] by what is believed to be a couple of disgruntled cheer parents who were angry with their child’s position or participation level in the team.”
The MVHS cheerleading community appears to agree that Henderson was unfairly dismissed.
On Wednesday (14 July), the cheer team held a rally outside the school, holding signs which read “save Coach Mike” and “we love Coach Mike”.
One Facebook user wrote: “Between my two kids we spent eight years at MVHS and the cheerleading team was never as good as it was when Coach Mike was coaching the team.
“He was strict but with only the intentions of bringing out the best in the team. I see an inequity here – for example we complained about one of our son’s football coaches who publicly asked our son personal questions about our finances and our household yet nothing happened to that coach. We were told he had a different ‘way’ of connecting with the players.
“So I would agree that there is sexual orientation discrimination at play because someone (the letter writer) in our homophobic community couldn’t handle him being gay.”
The school district said in a statement that “state employment and federal privacy laws prohibit the comment and/or discussion of specific personnel actions”.