Civil rights group calls for employees to be fired after Coronado High tortilla incident

A national civil rights organization is calling for Coronado High School coaches to be fired after at least two people flung tortillas at the basketball team for Escondido’s Orange Glen High School, which is predominantly Latino, after a division championship game Saturday night.

The Coronado Unified School Board on Monday called a special meeting for Tuesday evening to give an update on the incident and potentially discipline employees and students. Superintendent Karl Mueller said Monday that he cannot say whether the employee and student discipline is related to the tortilla incident.

Earlier Monday the national League of United Latin American Citizens, also known as LULAC, called for the school to fire any coaches who allowed the behavior at the game. The group called for “the strongest appropriate actions against those responsible.”

“Players who display actions perceived to be racist are not champions and coaches who allow this behavior are not suitable employees in a public school and should be removed,” said Domingo Garcia, president of LULAC, in a statement.

Coronado police have said they are “extremely disturbed” by the behavior at the basketball game and are currently investigating the incident. Police said Sunday they identified the man who brought packs of tortillas to the game.

Mueller has called the tortilla incident “reprehensible” and apologized to Orange Glen.

“The individuals who participated in these actions do not reflect our school district values,” Mueller said in a statement Sunday. “I want to make it clear that there is no place for such conduct in Coronado Unified School District.”

A video being circulated on social media shows two Coronado players flinging tortillas high into the air toward Orange Glen basketball players in Coronado’s gym. Another video shows the tortilla throwing happened during an altercation between coaches and players of the teams after the game, which Coronado won 60-57 in overtime.

Coronado High School basketball Coach JD Laaperi has tweeted that a community member brought and distributed the tortillas, “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 in a tweet on Saturday.

Orange Glen head basketball Coach Chris Featherly said in an earlier interview that his team had been waiting for a post-game award ceremony when Laaperi said disrespectful comments to him and his players.

According to Featherly, Laaperi said, “That’s why you don’t talk (expletive). Get your kids and get the (expletive) out of here.”

Featherly said he confronted Laaperi about his disrespectful comments, and that’s when the tortillas were flung.

Laaperi said the district has asked him not to say anything more to the media about the incident.

The Coronado board meeting will take place 5 p.m. Tuesday at at 201 Sixth Street in Coronado. The board will listen to public comments, give an update on the incident and then convene in closed session to discuss and potentially take action on employee and student discipline.

The board also will hold a closed-door performance evaluation of the superintendent.

Some people affiliated with Coronado High School were defending the tortilla throwing, saying it was not meant to be racist toward Orange Glen.

LULAC publicized a recent post from an Instagram account called NadoBoysBasketball that LULAC said was reposted on a Coronado High School Parent-Teacher Organization Facebook page. A PTO Facebook page has been taken down.

NadoBoysBasketball said in an Instagram post that the “tortilla toss” is a “celebratory action” similar to throwing confetti at parties or a cap at the end of a graduation ceremony and is a tradition at some universities.

“Unfortunately this ‘Tortilla Toss’ was taken as a malicious gesture towards the Hispanic community,” the statement read. “As a result, Coronado residents, players and coaches are being accused of racism. That wasn’t even a thought when the boys threw them in the air.”

The NadoBoysBasketball post also said that part of the Coronado basketball coaching staff is Black and the team has mixed Asian, Hispanic and Black members.

“To be accused of something so heinous is extremely upsetting,” the statement read. “It’s unfortunate this act was misconstrued and the boys never would’ve done it if they thought it would be hurtful or offensive.”

LULAC called the NadoBoysBasketball statement “disturbing.”

“Saturday night’s act of throwing tortillas was meant to perpetuate the worst kind of racist reaction against innocent athletes, their coaches and their families,” Garcia said. “Coronado supporters are trying to play the victim here saying the reaction to the tortilla tossing is ‘extremely upsetting’ to them. Try walking in the shoes of those struck by their projectiles.”

Laaperi said the NadoBoysBasketball Instagram account is not affiliated with him or his coaching staff.

Wayne McKinney, a team member of the Coronado High basketball team, also said in a tweet Monday evening that the tortilla throwing was not meant to be racist. He said a couple of players were given tortillas to throw, “but they were not used for that matter.”

“This behavior was unacceptable & I apologize to the Orange Glen players & staff who believe there was racist intentions behind this,” he wrote in his tweet. “After seeing the short clip that was posted by many sources, I can 100% say that our intentions was not meant to be offensive to the other team.”

He added that the Coronado coaching staff “had nothing to do with this” and would “never condone such behavior.”

McKinney later tweeted: “I understand the frustrations & I was told something about a tradition that may have been incorrect. Orange Glen you have my sincere apologies about what happened, speaking out was to protect myself, teammates & coaches who have received death threats and hate messages against us.”

Orange Glen is part of the Escondido Union High School District.

In a statement Sunday, the district said: “There is no place for hate in EUHSD. We do not tolerate racism, cultural disrespect, or any other behaviors that demean others … We are hopeful that all those involved will learn from this incident and move forward with a greater awareness and collective commitment to stand against racially insensitive and discriminatory practices.”

This is at least the third incident in recent years in which a San Diego-area high school sports event involved allegations of racial misconduct.

In April, members of the Cathedral Catholic High School football team circulated racist photos aimed at Lincoln High School, including one photo of someone wearing a t-shirt that said “Catholics vs. Convicts III” and another of Cathedral Catholic players making a gang sign.

In May, the San Diego City Conference placed the Cathedral Catholic team on two years’ probation and the football coach on a two-game suspension. The conference, which governs San Diego high school sports, also ordered the Catholic school to implement a restorative education program.

In 2019, Lincoln High school students were subjected to racial taunts at a football game hosted by San Clemente High School.

To give a public comment during the Tuesday Coronado board meeting, community members can attend in person at 201 Sixth Street, submit a written comment no more than 250 words long through the district website, or leave a comment by voicemail that is no longer than three minutes by calling 619-522-8900, extension 1025.




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