California high school stripped of basketball title after tortillas thrown at Latino opponents

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SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – A California high school has been stripped of a recently-won basketball championship after social media video captured their Latino opponents being pelted with tortillas.

On Wednesday, the California Interscholastic Federation vacated Coronado High School’s regional boys basketball championship and placed the school on probation through the 2023-24 school year.

In a statement, CIF said there was no doubt the behaviors exhibited after the June 19 game at predominantly-white Coronado High against Orange Glen High School were “unacceptable.”

“While consequences are warranted for such an egregious action as throwing tortillas at a predominantly Latino team and the sanctions below are being levied on the athletic program at Coronado High School, we must all be aware that behavior does not normally change with sanctions alone,” CIF said in a statement. “The path towards real change comes with the development of empathy for those who are on the receiving end of this type of degrading and demeaning behavior, no matter the proffered intent of that behavior.”

Under the ruling, the boys basketball program will be prohibited from hosting postseason competition until after the 2022-23 school year and all other athletic programs also will be barred until school stakeholders participate in a sportsmanship workshop and game management training.

The incident drew widespread condemnation for being racist and disrespectful, including from state and local lawmakers, several area school districts and members of the Orange Glen program.

In response, trustees from the Coronado Unified School District Governing Board unanimously voted to fire Coronado High head basketball coach J.D. Laaperi and several local advocacy groups have called for additional consequences against the program. The board also apologized to the Orange Glen school community, acknowledging the act as “egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful.”

Escondido Union High School District Superintendent Anne Staffieri said that the CIF report “provides us with a foundation for finding closure and a path forward. “

“We support the administration at Orange Glen High School engaging with the administration at Coronado High School to work toward a positive relationship between the two school communities,” Staffieri said. “We continue to focus on the needs of our students’ as they heal from this experience. As always, as a district, we remain committed to our support for equity, safety, and the well-being of all students.”

In the wake of the caught-on-camera incident, there were calls for the Coronado team to forfeit the victory.

On Saturday, Coronado Unified School District Superintendent Karl Mueller said that upon review of audio and video accounts of the incident, “we have seen no evidence of antagonization by the players actions or behaviors that justify forfeiting the game.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Mueller said the district is reviewing CIF’s ruling and is considering a potential appeal.

“We have also retained an outside investigator to thoroughly review the incident, which will guide any additional corrective actions,” Mueller said. “Whatever actions we take to address this matter, this incident and the CIF decision have served as clear reminders of the importance of sportsmanship and respectful conduct toward one another.”

Coronado resident Luke Serna took credit for bringing the tortillas that were thrown, arguing that it was done to mimic a tradition from various sporting events at his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara. He since acknowledged that throwing the tortillas “has been perceived as racially insensitive.”

“I do not condone racially insensitive behavior, and that was not my intent,” Serna said. “I apologize to all who were hurt by this and hope it can be a teaching moment for us all to become more conscious.”

CIF further recommends that Coronado High administrators engage with administrators at Orange Glen High “to begin the process of developing a positive relationship between the two school communities.”

They provided two examples of this engagement, including working cooperatively “to provide student-athletes from both schools with a restorative justice opportunity,” and working with a community-based nonprofit to conduct community service projects.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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