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Students say Fargo high school track coach targeted minorities; staff call it a misunderstanding

About 10 students, most of them minorities, say they were kicked out of the Fargo South High School track team for missing one practice meet.

Thumbnail - Students protest coach over unfair treatment
Fargo South High School students protested Tuesday, May 14, claiming the girls track and field coach had unfairly dismissed minority athletes from the team. Derek Murray / WDAY News

FARGO — Dozens of students and parents rallied in front of Fargo South High School, Tuesday afternoon, May 14, claiming a track coach there is unfairly removing minority athletes from the team.

Right as school got out Tuesday afternoon, protesters wielding signs bearing slogans like "don't be a bum, let them run," and "fear has no place in school," lined up right next the school's front door.

They were former track team members, parents, and fellow students — some from other schools in the area.


Protesters said about 10 students, mostly minorities, were kicked out of the team for missing one practice meet, even though their the syllabus shows team members can't be removed until they've had five unplanned absences.

"They said you get five chances before you're officially off the team," explained Mesaged Abakar, a junior and former track team member. "We didn't get one."

"We skipped straight, we missed a day and we skipped straight down to suspension," said Ziggy McGill, a senior and former captain of the team.

The students say they were forced to write an apology letter and read it aloud to their teammates, something the team hasn't done before. They claim none of the white athletes had to write it. The students met with several staff members, including the principal.

In a recording, they said Coach McLagan admitted to being inconsistent with the rules. In it, you could hear him say "If it's not consistent, they don't know what to expect."

They say the coach would take them back if they signed a contract saying they wouldn't miss another meetup.

"Our commitment is not worth a piece of paper," McGill said. "Our commitment is not worth an apology letter."

Ellone Gaylah, a sophomore athlete, said McGill told the athletes that were kicked off the team that he wouldn't know how to coach them if they returned.


"My coach is telling me he's not going to know how to coach me if I come back after such a little incident," he said. "That's going to make me not want to come back at all, whether it's next season or any of that."

The school's athletic director, Mike Beaton, said that it's all a misunderstanding.

"This is not about race," he explained. "This is about team rules being broken."

Beaton said the students were originally scheduled to help middle school athletes, but on the day of, students were sent a message saying it got canceled and that regular practice would happen instead. He also said this wasn't an isolated incident — as the students claim. He said some of those students missed other meets in the past.

"Obviously we want to get better," Beaton said. "We're in the business of education and want to make sure that if there are things that we can improve on, that we can continue to look at those."

District staff wouldn't say if McLagan is under investigation. They did mention every coach is evaluated at the end all athletic seasons.

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