State Watch

California basketball coach fired after tortillas thrown at team from mostly Hispanic high school

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A California basketball coach has been fired following a school district vote in response to an incident over the weekend in which some of his players allegedly threw tortillas at members of an opposing team from a predominantly Hispanic and Latino high school. 

In a closed Tuesday session of the Coronado Unified School Board, members voted 5-0 to let go of JD Laaperi from his position at Coronado High, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. 

The local news outlet said that the board in the San Diego Bay city did not release any additional details on the vote, but noted that action was not taken on potential punishments against the students involved. 

The incident occurred Saturday evening after Coronado defeated the Orange Glen High School basketball team by three points at the CIF Southern California Boys Basketball Division 4-A Regional Championship. 

Lizardo Reynoso, an assistant basketball coach for Orange Glen, told local ABC affiliate KGTV that his team was “going to take the loss the way they were supposed to,” though witnesses said a squabble between coaching staff erupted following the game. 

The Union-Tribune reported that according to witnesses, Laaperi cursed at an Orange Glen coach following the game, saying, “That’s why you don’t talk [expletive],” and, “Get your kids and get the [expletive] out of here.”

Video of the incident circulated on social media showed at least two Coronado players throwing multiple tortillas into the air toward members of the Orange Glen team. 

According to the Union-Tribune, Laaperi has said that he has been advised by the school district not to speak to members of the media, though the coach tweeted Sunday that it was a “community member” who brought and distributed the tortillas at the game, which he called “unacceptable and racist in nature.” 

“I do not condone this behavior,” Laaperi added. “Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action.”

Coronado Unified School District’s Governing Board on Sunday sent a letter to the Escondido Union High School District, which oversees Orange Glen, officially apologizing for the incident, calling the actions “egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful.” 

The board added that it was meeting Tuesday to “hear the initial results of ongoing investigations and consider additional actions that may need to be taken.”

Coronado Schools Superintendent Karl Mueller also issued an apology, writing that district officials were “appalled” over the actions, and that “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,” Mueller added. “We are hopeful that this experience can be used as a teachable moment to educate our students on the impact of words and actions, and to reflect and learn from it to move forward to increased awareness and respect to match our high expectations.” 

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