Coronado School Board Fires Basketball Coach Following Tortilla-Throwing Incident
The Coronado Unified School District Governing Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to fire Coronado High School boys' basketball coach JD Laaperi, three days after fans threw tortillas at the opposing team following a championship game.
The vote was taken behind closed doors and the board did not comment further.
Coronado defeated Escondido's Orange Glen High School 60-57 Saturday for the California Interscholastic Federation Southern California Boys' Basketball Division 4-A regional championship.
It was unclear who initiated the tortilla throwing. The Coronado Police Department hasn't publicly identified a suspect, but said a man brought the tortillas to the game.
Lizardo Reynoso, an assistant coach for Orange Glen, told KGTV that 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."
The San Diego NAACP chapter Tuesday condemned Coronado fans and players.
Chapter president Francine Maxwell said those who threw tortillas committed "racist actions that do not represent San Diego nor the America we want all people to love, value and appreciate.
"Let's be honest: The distasteful act of tortilla-throwing at a basketball game uncovers deep social inequities that are fueled by racism," Maxwell said in a news release.
"From marginalizing and dehumanizing groups of 'others' based on income and inequality. We are extremely concerned that the coaches on both teams modeled inappropriate behavior and specifically that Coronado High School parents and two team players threw tortillas at Orange Glen players," Maxwell said.
Laaperi tweeted Saturday night the incident was being addressed.
"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 tweeted.
The NAACP wants the CIF to either rule that Coronado share the CIF title with Orange Glen, or strip the Coronado team of its regional title altogether.
The group is also recommending that two players who allegedly threw tortillas be kicked off the team, and that Laaperi be banned from coaching high school sports for at least one year.
Other recommendations include sensitivity training — conducted by the NAACP San Diego Branch and its partners — and banning the parent or parents who brought the tortillas from all games for all sports.
The Coronado Unified School District Governing Board on Monday sent a letter to the Orange Glen community describing the behavior as "egregious, demeaning and disrespectful."
District Superintendent Karl 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."
Escondido Union High School District Superintendent Anne Staffieri said in a letter that the district board would discuss a resolution at its Tuesday night meeting "to denounce racism, racial discrimination, and the district's support for equity, safety and well-being of all students.
"We do not tolerate behavior that seeks to marginalize, diminish or devalue a person for any reason, including race, religion or gender identity," Staffieri wrote. "We must all work together, staff, students, parents and families, to look head-on at divisive behavior, call it out, and work to eliminate it."
Staffieri said the district "is investigating the situation to gather all the facts and understand the sequence of events. After we have the facts and the full picture, it will be appropriate for the students to face one another, to confront, discuss and grow stronger through honest discussions and sincere apologies, and I am confident that both school districts will work to make this happen."
Several members of the Legislature's Latino Caucus on also condemned the incident.
"This goes beyond a teaching moment — it's a glaring example of racism from students who are old enough to know better," said Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.
"And it's yet another reminder of how far we still have to go to root out hate in our schools and our athletics, and of why we need a comprehensive ethnic studies curriculum mandated in our high schools," the three lawmakers said. "There must be consequences. We call on CIF to take strong action to hold the responsible students and school accountable for these hateful, violating acts."
The president of the League of United Latin American Citizens also released a statement, demanding that the Coronado Unified School District "take all appropriate and immediate disciplinary action against the coach, staff and students involved in this disgraceful and unsportsmanlike behavior of last Saturday night."
Domingo Garcia added that LULAC "hopes that the students of Coronado High School and the staff make this a teachable moment on how to unite, instead of be divided against other students or communities because of their school, race or ethnicity."
The CIF is investigating the incident.