Deering High football coach Matt Riddell resigned on the eve of the school’s annual Thanksgiving Day game against Portland High amid a school department investigation into an alleged incident brought to the attention of the NAACP.

The state’s NAACP director said Wednesday that she had received a complaint from the parent of a Deering player about an alleged incident involving the coach, and said the school department’s investigation has been handled “frivolously.”

Riddell, when contacted Wednesday, would not confirm he has stepped down, but Portland Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk said Riddell has resigned because of family matters unrelated to the investigation.

“The reason he cited (for his resignation) was to care for a family member who is ill,” Caulk said.

Rachel Talbot Ross, state director of the NAACP and president of the Portland branch, said her office had been contacted about an alleged incident involving Riddell. The complaint was brought forth two weeks ago by a Deering football player’s parent, although Ross would not offer specifics about the complaint.

“We notified the school administration and understood they were in the process of conducting an investigation,” Ross said.

“There was some concern by us on the pace of the investigation. While things may be resolved tentatively, there should be expectations for the school department to conduct an investigation in a more timely and professional manner.

“The situation was of grave concern, yet I feel the school administration took it frivolously. There are deeper issues such as how it occurred and how to take action to prevent such things from happening.”

Caulk notified Portland School Committee members about Riddell’s resignation and the investigation via email Wednesday afternoon. “The investigation is pending and it will be completed based on the allegations,” Caulk wrote.

It’s the second incident this fall involving a Deering High team. In a soccer game Oct. 7 at Scarborough High, slurs allegedly were directed by Scarborough fans toward Deering players, several of whom are immigrants from war-ravaged countries. The respective superintendents ordered independent investigations to prevent further incidents.

Caulk said at the time: “The Portland Public Schools is proud to be Maine’s most diverse school district. Our diversity is one of our strengths and we will not tolerate any aspersions against our students because of it.”

Riddell’s resignation marks the second time in 14 months that Deering has lost its head football coach. Scott Parsons was fired in 2013 after a comment he made to an official after a loss to Massabesic High. Riddell was appointed interim head coach and was hired as the full-time coach after that season. Riddell is not a teacher at Deering High School.

“It’s another difficult thing for us to handle as we look forward to Turkey Day,” Deering senior Ryan Rarn said of Riddell’s resignation.

Deering (4-5) meets Portland (6-4) for the 103rd time on the holiday at 10:30 a.m. Defensive coordinator Rob Susi will be the acting head coach for Deering.

Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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