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Prep Coaches Ousted Over Privacy Violation

Duluth News Tribune, Jana Hollingsworth

The contract of Duluth East boys basketball head coach Chuck Tolo was ended Tuesday night in a 5-2 vote by the Duluth School Board.

The board also voted to not renew the contract of assistant coach Will Starks, both effective at the end of the school year. The board discussed allegations against Tolo in an open session, at his request. The two were accused of violating student privacy and employee and Minnesota State High School League conduct rules.

The allegations stem from the coaches’ reaction to events surrounding the playing status of 7-foot center Akolda Manyang, who was suspended from the playoffs for an alleged violation of high school league rules. Manyang appealed the ruling to a school district-assembled panel last month, which didn’t rule before the state basketball tournament, causing Tolo and Starks to publicly criticize the district.

Tolo told the News Tribune in a March 22 story, “The way this has been handled is wrong; it’s just not how you do things with kids. … I’m so disillusioned with the system that I’m in right now, I don’t even know if they want me back. I’m not concerned in the least about that … the state tournament is done, but I will fight for that kid, and I don’t care if I have to fight my own school district.”

Manyang was suspended from playoff games for violating the MSHSL’s policy against tobacco use, a violation that was reported to East administrators by a Woodland Hills official and subsequently passed on to the MSHSL. While attending East, Manyang lived at Woodland Hills after being placed there for felonies committed in 2009 and 2010 while in Rochester, Minn. He has since moved in with Starks.

Allegations against the coaches include:

  • Violation of data privacy laws related to statements made regarding a student-athlete’s residence and MSHSL violations, investigation and hearing.
  • Violation of the MSHSL code of sports ethics for coaches, of the expectation they are to be knowledgeable about rules which govern eligibility of student-athletes and apply them as intended.
  • That they are to set an example of “highest ethical moral conduct in all personal contact with student-athletes, officials, administration, media and public” and listen “respectfully to concerns brought to their attention by parents, guardians and student-athletes.”
  • That they are to follow protocol for sportsmanship as explained in the district’s coaches handbook and act as role models within accepted boundaries of the coach-student relationship.

Board members Art Johnston and Mary Cameron opposed the measure.

Cameron said she didn’t condone the violations, but cited inconsistencies within the district regarding the process for handling them, noting other employees with similar infractions haven’t been treated the same way.

“This is a serious violation, but do we have to move to this dramatic step right away?” she said to the News Tribune.

Johnston, during the open session, said the board should consider extenuating circumstances before ending the contracts.

“Has he been here a long time? Is he respected by peers? I have heard he’s a fairly good coach,” he said. “Good with students, getting players placed in colleges. I think it’s kind of sad.”


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