High school soccer coach fired over clown photo

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A St. Francis, Minn., high school soccer coach was fired recently after a photo of him with a clown mask circulated around social media.

KMSP reported that Ben Hildre, head coach of the St. Francis High School JV girls' soccer team, was photographed with a clown mask on as part of a Halloween tradition he created for the team. "I just drove by, waved, practiced and went and took a picture by that garbage can," he told KMSP. "I wasn't trying to make light of a bad situation and bad judgment on my part for being naive."

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A student caught the photo online and alerted the superintendent, saying she "was appalled" that an adult would wear a mask like this with the recent string of clown-related crime stories. "I'd say that the safety and security of kids is not an overreaction," Troy Ferguson, St. Francis superintendent, told KARE. "And they're just very, very afraid of it."

KMSP reports Hildre’s former players are rallying to have him back as their coach as they met with the school board on Monday to "Bring Ben back." "It was a joke, none of us felt threatened at all," Madison Mart, a senior, told KMSP. "It’s just sad that they took this out of proportion and got rid of him," Elsie Johnson, another senior, added.

KMSP said the school board indicated it will revisit Hildre's situation soon. Hildre, meanwhile, worries that he may not coach again for an ironic reason. "I was actually voted class clown up here (in 2001)," he told the news station.

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