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Coronado School Board Fires Basketball Coach Following Tortilla-Throwing Incident

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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.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Last night, the Cora nada unified school board voted unanimously to fire their head basketball coach just days after an incident where tortillas were thrown at players from a rival predominantly Latino high school, the vote was taken behind closed doors and the board has not yet commented further on the decision. Joining me with more is KPBS racial justice and social equity reporter, Christina Kim, Christina. Welcome. Hey Andrew. As we just mentioned, the Coronado unified school board voted unanimously to fire this head basketball coach. Do you think this was the expected outcome? Once the backlash really started to Mount in the wake of this incident,

Speaker 2: 00:40 It's hard to say what's expected, but what we do know is that since the incident happened on Saturday night, there was a mounting call for coach JD Lee Perry to be let go just yesterday in front of Cornetto high school, there was a rally of advocates, as well as orange Glen parents that were calling for his termination and really putting the onus of the incident on the coach. So in that sense, this outcome is not exactly surprising with so many people looking for a decisive action from the Cornado unified school district.

Speaker 1: 01:06 And people saying that the apology wasn't really enough. So what do we know exactly about what transpired at the basketball game on Saturday? What was the sequence of events?

Speaker 2: 01:17 Sure. What we know so far is that it was a championship game between orange, Glen and Cornetto high. These teams have previously faced each other and it was already kind of charged after Coronado high one coach JD Lopera allegedly approached orange Glenn's coach and shattered profanities to get his quote loser team out of the gym. At that point, it's believed some players and others did throw tortillas at the orange Glen players, which as you've said, is a predominantly Latino school, which then led into a scuffle and where we are today.

Speaker 1: 01:47 Have there been any calls for further punishment or action beyond just the firing of the basketball coach?

Speaker 2: 01:54 That's right. Well, we've heard from some organizations such as the local chapter of the council on American Islamic relations or care, ask the Coronado, implement ethnic studies and anti-racist courses. That's actually something that I heard echoed bike, a son that I got eBay. Who's the sister of an orange Glen basketball player. She says, if everyone had anti-racist curriculum, perhaps these types of incidents wouldn't happen. We've also seen LULAC and which is the league of United Latin American citizens and the NAACP urging CIF, the California interscholastic Federation to further investigate and even consider stripping core, not high of its championship title for now, CIS is saying, it's just waiting to get the incident reports from both schools. And when I reached out for comment this morning about JD Lee, Perry's firing, they said they didn't have any further comment and haven't taken any further actions.

Speaker 1: 02:45 So as we said, this incident targeted players from orange, Glen high, which is a predominantly Latino student body. What has the response been from the students there?

Speaker 2: 02:56 Right. I mean, I think it's just when these incidents happen, a ripple effect of pain for the students, for the players and for their families. As I mentioned, Casandra Gotti bay, her brother, Anthony plays on the team. And what she said is that she identifies as Hispanic and Latina and that their family normally doesn't get involved or, you know, isn't really active, but that this event has really shaken their family. That they're really in disbelief. Her mother is just very emotional right now. And I think that's what we're seeing writ large. It's just very hard when these incidents happen. And I think we have to remember it was a basketball game, you know, for the orange Lin high school basketball players, they were already suffering a loss. So on top of this, and now this national attention, I think there's just a sense of, of pain and kind of looking forward to what's going to happen next.

Speaker 1: 03:44 How has the administration of orange Glen high school or other officials in Escondida where that school is based, uh, responded to this incident?

Speaker 2: 03:53 I mean, of course they've denounced the incident and they've said that they're really working with their community to heal, you know, Dr. [inaudible] who's the superintendent of the Escondido unified school district told me that this is an opportunity for restorative justice and opportunity to reflect, to learn and to adjust behaviors. So what we're really seeing here is yes, you know, officials at orange, Glen denounced the incident. They really want to see accountability. They want to see Coronado unified school district and the Coronado high really take accountability for their actions. But I think what we've seen on both sides is that there's a commitment to opening the road for further dialogue of healing, restorative justice, again is the practice of centering those impacted, but then creating a space and an opportunity where people to heal to face accountability and to talk to one another and grow.

Speaker 1: 04:42 So there has been really widespread condemnation of this incident, which is pretty transparently racist, but some are saying that the gesture of throwing these tortillas at the opposing team was not meant to be racist or that the actions that were taken by Cornetto unified school district and firing this coach are an overreaction. What can you tell us about that?

Speaker 2: 05:03 Right. I mean, yesterday, the Cornado unified school district did have a special meeting and some people did speak up to that matter as what you're saying, they feel that the school is too quickly condemning these actions as racist that their apologies are throwing the basketball players under the bus, as opposed to doing a further investigation. So those sentiments definitely do exist. But what we heard at last night's meeting and what we've often heard when these incidents happen is that with racism, we often talk about intent, but in reality, it's not, it's not what's intended. If the tortilla throwing wasn't intended to be racist, it was still felt to be racist, right? It was perceived as such. And the harm that it's causing is that of a racist incident. And so what we heard from the Coronado unified school district governing board is that it's not about intent. It's about how it's actually impacting the community. And that's how it's being treated.

Speaker 1: 05:55 I've been speaking with KPBS, racial justice and social equity reporter, Christina, Kim, and Christina. Thank you for your reporting. And thank you for joining us. Thank you, Andrew.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.