Investigation clears fired cheerleading coach of bullying allegations

Report says evidence does not support claims made by displeased parents about Melissa Prochilo

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A report clears a former cheerleading coach at a Coral Springs high school of bullying allegations despite her being fired by the School Board of Broward County.

An extensive three-month district investigation found that former Marjory Douglas High School coach Melissa Prochilo did nothing wrong. The findings were outlined in a 40-page report released Wednesday.

"The evidence does not support the allegations in this case," wrote investigator Robert Spence.

Prochilo had been labeled a "Mean Girls coach" in international headlines in early October after a handful of displeased mothers of cheerleaders made allegations of bullying, booster club violations, and other improprieties. According to the report, the mothers convinced school board members like Katie Leach that Prochilo was a rule-breaker. 

"These girls need to be safe," Leach said at the time.

Under pressure, Superintendent Robert Runcie fired Prochilo as coach even after two previous investigations said the allegations against Prochilo were without merit. The latest investigation found that the problems stemmed from "distractions and disruptions" that came not from Prochilo, but rather her handful of detractors. The report also acknowledged "an overwhelming amount of support from the parents on her team."

"You can use influence and get people fired people who have dedicated their lives to teaching. This is Pandora's box wide open," said Scott Etheridge, a parent.

But the findings don't signal a new beginning for Prochilo's career.

"I just want my name cleared," Prochilo said earlier this month. "Who's going to hire me? There's bullying all over the place. The superintendent didn't stick up for me. Everything was unfounded."

Runcie didn't respond to questions about the investigation.

Leach, who led the charges against Prochilo, told Local 10's Bob Norman she received a copy of the report, but had not read it.

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