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‘Fueled by racism’: School district under fire after tortilla-throwing incident

Coronado High School
Students walking outside Coronado High School in San Diego.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s June 24. I’m Justin Ray.

A San Diego-area school district is making headlines for an incident that took place at a basketball game.

Coronado school district leaders apologized to Orange Glen High — a predominantly Latino school in Escondido — after tortillas were thrown at its boys basketball team during an altercation following a championship game.

It all started Saturday night after Coronado won the game against Orange Glen High, 60-57, in overtime at home, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Witnesses said Coronado head basketball coach JD Laaperi cursed at an Orange Glen coach after the game, saying, “That’s why you don’t talk (expletive). Get your kids and get the (expletive) out of here.” Then, at least two Coronado players threw tortillas, according to a video posted on social media.

Afterward, Laaperi took to Twitter to comment on the incident.

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“Unfortunately a community member brought tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature. I do not condone this behavior. Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action,” Laaperi said on social media.

In a statement, Coronado Unified School District Supt. Karl J. Mueller called the behavior reprehensible and gave a “deep and sincere apology to the Orange Glen community.”

“It is our hope to create opportunities to dialogue with the Orange Glen community in an attempt to repair,” he said. “We are hopeful that this experience can be used as a teachable moment to educate our students on the impact of words and actions, and to reflect and learn from it to move forward to increased awareness and respect to match our high expectations.”

On Tuesday night, the Coronado Unified school board voted unanimously to fire Laaperi. The board discussed student discipline but has yet to carry it out, the Union-Tribune reported.

Wayne McKinney, captain of the Coronado basketball team, has said the team’s coaches and players have received hate messages and death threats. He doesn’t believe the students had race on their minds when they acted out.

“It was not based on race or class. It was simply a great game between two teams,” McKinney said at Tuesday‘s board meeting, the Union-Tribune reported. “I think many people are making Saturday out to be something it was not.”

Many parents and organizations spoke out about the incident.

“Bringing tortillas was racism, plain and simple. We don’t need to send these kids to jail. The people behind it need to be investigated and we need to find out who did it. The environment that allowed this to survive is Coronado. There were issues before Saturday,” said parent Yousef Miller, according to ABC News.

“The distasteful act of tortilla throwing at a basketball game uncovers deep social inequities that are fueled by racism,” the NAACP San Diego Branch said in a statement. “Coronado must stop turning a blind eye to racial microaggressions and, in this case, macroaggressions that continue to traumatize students of color within the district and throughout the county.”

Escondido Union High School District Supt. Anne Staffieri said in a community letter that once an investigation has ended, Escondido wants to bring students from both teams “to face one another, to confront, discuss and grow stronger through honest discussions and sincere apologies.”

There have been other incidents involving race and schools. You can read more at the Union-Tribune.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A. STORIES

Britney finally speaks. Britney Spears has finally confirmed what many fans have long suspected: She wants out of her conservatorship. “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” the pop star said Wednesday during a court appearance via telephone for a hearing in her case. “I’m telling the truth, OK, I’m not happy. I’m so angry it’s insane, and I’m depressed.” Los Angeles Times

Transit plans for LAX are on track. This week, officials came together at Los Angeles International Airport to break ground on a $900-million Airport Metro Connector project. By 2024, it will link the airport to the region’s light rail and bus transportation systems. The hope is that the system will be in place in time for the 2028 Olympics. Los Angeles Times

Traffic at Los Angeles International Airport
Travelers are dropped off LAX’s international terminal for departures on the upper level as shuttle buses maneuver to pick up spots on the lower level for arrivals in 2019.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Submachine gun spotted in car. Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was arrested in Los Angeles after police said they saw a submachine gun in his car. The 28-year-old was pulled over south of downtown, LAPD spokesman Tony Im said. “Officers noticed a bag with an Uzi sticking out in plain sight in the car,” Im said. Clark’s attorney, Alex Spiro, said the gun belonged to Clark’s bodyguard. Los Angeles Times

‘To Live and Die in LA’ returns. If you listened to the podcast “To Live and Die in LA” like I did, you know how riveting every episode was. Well, host Neil Strauss is back with a second season about the disappearance of Elaine Park, a 20-year-old woman last seen in Calabasas. You can listen to episodes now. Associated Press

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Separated at the border. Families who migrate to the U.S. from Central and South America to seek asylum may not know that they could be separated. That’s what Néstor and Melvin discovered. The father and son fled El Salvador after receiving death threats from gang members. The pair, split by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy in 2018, have reunited in California. But struggles remain. KQED

VP to make first trip to U.S.-Mexico border Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the southern border on Friday. The trip to El Paso with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N.
Mayorkas is sure to be politically fraught. Republicans have called her the “border czar,” hoping to make Harris the face of an issue they believe could help them in next year’s midterm congressional elections. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Video shows deputy kicking man in head during arrest. A San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy is under criminal investigation after video showed him kicking a suspect in the head after the man appears to be surrendering. The incident occurred in a Toyota dealership parking lot in Victorville last week and was captured on surveillance video. The deputy, who has not been identified, has been placed on administrative leave, sheriff’s officials said. Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court rules California farms can keep union organizers off private land. The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down part of a historic California law inspired by Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers union, ruling that agricultural landowners and food processors have a right to keep union organizers off their property. By a 6-3 vote, the justices said the state’s “right of access” rule violates property rights protected by the Constitution, which states private property shall not be “taken for public use without just compensation.” Los Angeles Times

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

California oil regulators delay health and safety rules again. Oil regulators missed another deadline for releasing new health and safety measures for people who live near oil and gas drilling sites. Environmental advocates say communities cannot continue to wait. California is America’s seventh-largest oil-producing state, yet there are no statewide rules for how far gas wells have to be from residences, workplaces or schools. Associated Press

Desert plants are dying at a concerning rate. Due to hotter temperatures and less rain, UC Irvine scientists found a 37% decline in native vegetation across 5,000 square miles of Southern California‘s Sonoran desert. “They’re already so badly beaten by drought or heat that they’re at the brink of existence,” one researcher said. Desert Sun

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Exclusive housing development must open its gates. “One of Long Beach’s most luxurious gated communities may lose its gates because it was supposed to include a public walkway that was never built,” Anthony Pignataro writes. Now, a state agency is trying to create those walkways. But residents are not too happy because many moved there because of those gates. Additionally, amenities such as three tennis courts and two swimming pools occupy land that was supposed to be for the public. Long Beach Post

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Sunny, 78. San Diego: Sunny, 72. San Francisco: Overcast, 67. San Jose: Sunny, 76. Fresno: Sunny, 93. Sacramento: Sunny, 88.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Russ Hendrickson:

I grew up in the 1950s in Long Beach, where my doting parents and I lived in a modest two-bedroom, 1-bath home on Stearns Street. I attended Minnie Grant Elementary, Stanford Junior High, Millikan High School and Long Beach State. After marrying a girl I met in high school, we moved to Gilroy, where we lived for 36 years, rearing five children before moving to Oregon 18 years ago. I am 79 now and have been married to that high school girl for 57 years. We both have the sweetest and warmest memories of our 45-plus years in the Golden State.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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