High School Basketball Coach Fired After Tortilla-Throwing Incident Many Saw As Racist


Wednesday, June 23rd 2021, 11:39 am
By: CBS News, Associated Press


A San Diego-area school district voted Tuesday night to fire a head basketball coach after tortillas were hurled at a team from a mostly Latino high school.

The Coronado Unified School Board voted 5-0 in a closed session to release JD Laaperi of Coronado High School, CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV reported.

The board also discussed but didn't take action on student discipline, The San Diego Union-Tribune said.

There was a squabble between the schools' coaching staffs after mostly White Coronado beat visiting Orange Glen High School, of Escondido, 60-57 in overtime Saturday in a division championship game.

Witnesses alleged that Laaperi shouted expletives at an Orange Glen coach, saying, "Get your kids and get the (expletive) out of here," KFMB says.

Video shared on social media showed at least two Coronado students throwing tortillas into the air toward the other team.

But KFMB said it was unclear who initiated the tortilla tossing, adding that the Coronado Police Department hasn't publicly identified a suspect but has said an adult male brought the tortillas to the game.

Laaperi tweeted Saturday that a community member brought them and said the incident 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," he wrote.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, community activists and parents gathered outside Coronado High School for a rally, according to KFMB.

Lizardo Reynoso, an assistant coach for Orange Glen, told reporters Coronado players and some fans "started throwing tortillas on our whole team which, as you can see, we're predominately Hispanic and Latino, so it like, took us pretty hard."

Passions ran high at an emergency school board meeting leading up to the vote, as students, parents and community members spoke out.

"We don't need anybody to explain anything else to us," said board trustee Esther Valdez Clayton. "We know what we saw and that it hurt." 

"These weren't just ... tortillas. These were bombs of racism," added community activist Enrique Morones.

Coronado team captain Wayne McKinney said none of the players had brought the tortillas and there was no animosity of any kind toward the Orange Glen players. "However, throwing the tortillas after the game was unsportsmanlike, and on behalf of the team we apologize for that act," McKinney said.

"Even if they were not intended as racist, we cannot ignore that our guests, these children who played their hearts out for a championship, felt attacked because they were Hispanic," Coronado school trustee Whitney Antrim said during the meeting.

Still, notes KFMB, some Coronado parents said the board shouldn't take any action until all evidence was considered and the investigation complete.

"You jumped the gun," one parent charged. "You caused a myriad of issues for our boys, including death threats."

In a community letter Tuesday, Escondido Union High School District Superintendent Anne Staffieri said that following its investigation, the district wants to bring together students from both teams "to face one another, to confront, discuss and grow stronger through honest discussions and sincere apologies."

Coronado Unified School District Superintendent Karl Mueller issued a public message of apology Sunday that called the act "reprehensible."

KFMB said the district governing board sent a letter Monday to the Orange Glen community describing the behavior as "egregious, demeaning and disrespectful."

Mueller said "swift action will be taken to address all those involved, and they will be held accountable. It is our hope to create opportunities to dialogue with the Orange Glen community in an attempt to repair."

Both school districts, along with Coronado police and the California Interscholastic Federation, are conducting investigations into the incident.