The creepy clown craze has claimed a victim – a high school soccer coach who has been fired for wearing a mask.
Members of the St. Francis High School JV girls' soccer team are rallying to reinstate their volunteer coach Ben Hildre. He was fired for wearing the mask to the last soccer practice of the year last Wednesday.
A picture of him was taken, which you can see above, and was then posted onto Twitter. It came to the attention of school Superintendent Troy Ferguson after a complaint was made.
On his Facebook page, Hildre says for the past few years he has brought a Halloween mask along to the last practice of the year, hanged pinatas filled with candy to "reflect on our fall season" with the students.
Hildre says he only posed for the photo at his students' urging and said there was nothing "malicious" about his choice of costume, but it offended one student who has been "extremely on edge" about the clown craze sweeping the nation in the run-up to Halloween.
A day after the practice, the school district posted this on its Facebook page.
On Friday, just an hour before a JV soccer game, Hildre was informed that his services would no longer be required.
"I understand the timing is bad for what is going on with social media with clowns but I didn't have a knife, wasn't threatening in any manner. Seems little harsh if you ask me," he said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"What hurts the worst is not being able to coach basketball all winter which if you follow me on social media it's what I enjoy most in life, to give my student athletes to enjoy have fun in high school sports. That has been taking [sic] away from me."
He later apologized for offending the student, adding: "Wasn't my intentions to hurt anyone. I come to practice/games everyday trying to help my student athletes enjoy their sport and do it while having fun."
Hildre and supporters attended a school board meeting on Monday night to plead his case, after his students started a #BringBenBack campaign on social media.
He also says he spoke with Ferguson, who he claims told him the clown craze is a "threat to students in his district."
The board will review his case, with Hildre hoping they come to a decision by the next board meeting on Oct. 24.
In a statement to FOX 9, Superintendent Ferguson defended his decision to end Hildre's role with the school.
"We all make mistakes and this was a big one," he said. "Kids are scared and it’s not okay for adults to be part of that to make kids scared."
A teenager was arrested in Crookston, Minnesota, over the weekend after police found him wandering the streets wearing a clown costume and carrying a butcher's knife.
Here's a copy of the letter Ferguson sent to Hildre informing him of his termination.