Bremerton School Board settles for $2M to football coach Kennedy

Mar 17, 2023, 8:39 AM | Updated: 9:20 am
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy holds hands with his wife Denise as he walks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with members of his legal team after his case, Kennedy vs. Bremerton School District, was argued before the Supreme Court April 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Update 3/17:

The Bremerton School Board voted Thursday to approve a nearly $2 million settlement with now-rehired football coach Joe Kennedy, after firing him for praying with students on the field after games.

Kennedy sued the district over his termination, saying it was unlawful and violated his First Amendment rights. The case reached the Supreme Court, where they sided with Kennedy.

The school board is now on the hook for Kennedy’s attorney fees for the case. The school board has not addressed how the $1,775,000 settlement will be paid.

Original 3/14:

Former Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy has been officially reinstated by the school following a seven-year legal battle where the Supreme Court upheld his right to pray on the field after games, the district confirmed.

Kennedy reportedly wanted to return to Bremerton as soon as last fall, according to an interview with Dori Monson.

Dori: ‘I’ve got faith’ – despite other reports, praying coach says he’s ready to start talks to get his job back

Kennedy began praying on the field after football games in 2008, continuing the practice until 2015, when he was placed on administrative leave for violating district orders to stop praying. He and the school district reportedly debated whether his praying was protected under religious expression multiple times.

The case boiled down to whether Kennedy’s actions violated the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches – or whether it compromised the rights of students not to feel pressured into joining religious practices.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, according to the Associated Press, suggested there’s a difference between a coach praying in a huddle with students or in the locker room and “when players are disbursing after the game.”

Ross: Months after his SCOTUS decision on prayer in schools, where is coach Joe Kennedy?

The high court voted 6-3 in favor of Kennedy’s post-game praying practices.

A spokesperson for Kennedy says he was reinstated to his former position March 8 but will not return to campus until spring football begins sometime in the next few months.

A $2-million settlement agreement between Kennedy and the district will be presented to the school board during their public meeting this Thursday for approval.

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Bremerton School Board settles for $2M to football coach Kennedy