Coronado school district issues apology after tortillas thrown at opposing basketball team
Coronado school district leaders apologized Sunday to Orange Glen High — a predominately Latino school in Escondido — after tortillas were hurled at the school’s boys basketball team during an altercation in the aftermath of a championship game Saturday night.
Coronado police said they would be investigating the incident.
It marks the third incident condemned as racist in San Diego County high school sports in recent years. For Coronado, the incident comes as its school district — which serves predominately white students — examines how to root out racism in its schools.
Saturday’s tumult unfolded after Coronado won the game 60-57 in overtime at home. Coaching staff on both sides were squabbling when, according to video shared on social media, at least two Coronado players appeared to throw tortillas.
“We should have universal condemnation of this activity,” Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said on Twitter. “Parents in SD County know that racist taunts against latino athletes are too commonplace. It’s time to stop it.”
She issued a message to parents: “Teach your kids not to be racist. ... Tortillas are for eating, not throwing.”
She also called on the California Interscholastic Federation to strip Coronado of its championship or otherwise sanction the high school.
Coronado Unified School District Supt. Karl Mueller called the incident “reprehensible” and apologized to Orange Glen. He said the district has “a commitment to stand against any act of bias.”
“The individuals who participated in these actions do not reflect our school district values,” Mueller said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that there is no place for such conduct in Coronado Unified School District.”
He promised “swift action” and accountability.
“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.”
The Coronado school board also issued an apology to Orange Glen and planned to meet Tuesday to discuss the matter.
“The Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning and disrespectful,” the school board said in a letter addressed to Orange Glen. The school board also said it condemned “the racism, classism and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators.”
Witnesses said there were several heated moments on the court and in the stands during the championship game. Some blamed administrators and referees for not bringing the atmosphere under control. The game came a week after Coronado beat Orange Glen in another championship game.
Orange Glen head coach Chris Featherly called it a “hard-fought” game. He said his coaching staff was in disbelief at the loss and his players were distraught. They were waiting for a post-game award ceremony when Coronado head coach JD Laaperi directed disrespectful comments at Featherly and his players, he said.
Featherly said he confronted Laaperi, telling him the comment was disrespectful.
It was during the confrontation that the tortillas were thrown. Featherly said he was struck but didn’t know what it was until he looked at the ground and saw tortillas. He said he believes the incident is a reflection of the school’s basketball program and its leadership.
Featherly said the players deserve the championship win. “Their kids fought hard,” he said. But he added that Laaperi should be held accountable.
Contacted by phone Sunday, Laaperi said district officials asked him not to comment. “Unfortunately a community member brought tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature,” he said Saturday night on Twitter. “I do not condone this behavior. Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action.”
Coronado police said they received a call to assist with clearing the gym after the incident. Officers have identified a man who brought tortillas to the game and investigators plan to follow up, the department said.
The incident comes after several high-profile incidents that targeted Lincoln High School in San Diego.
In April, Cathedral Catholic High School football players circulated racist photos aimed at Lincoln High. One photo showed someone wearing a shirt with “Catholics vs. Convicts III” and another showed players from the private school making a gang sign. In May, the San Diego City Conference, which governs San Diego high school sports, placed Cathedral Catholic’s football coach on a two-game suspension. It also placed the team on two years’ probation and ordered Cathedral Catholic to implement a restorative education program.
In 2019, students at Lincoln High were subjected to racial taunts and slurs at a football game at San Clemente High School. San Clemente’s principal said students from Lincoln High and San Clemente would participate in a “restorative circle” and a workshop facilitated by the Anti-Defamation League.
10:28 a.m. June 21, 2021: This story was updated with information from California Interscholastic Federation officials.
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