The following letter was sent to CIF Executive Director, Ron Nocetti by Coronado Unified School District Superintendent Karl Mueller.
June 25, 2021
As evidence of the passion and commitment of our communities, there has been continued dialogue around the events of Saturday, June 19. We each have our perspectives which may make it appealing to think in absolutes – however, we acknowledge the complexity of different experiences, and that people may see this incident from their own point of view. I want to share an update and summary from CUSD as well as to clarify that CUSD’s role is to respond to an incident that occurred in our district gym and the subsequent outcomes. CUSD has no “agenda” and is not trying to make all people see the world in the same way or to decide one “truth.” Our shared goal is learning, repairing and moving forward rather than continued attempts to place blame, deflect, or to further polarize our communities.
We acknowledge that different perspectives and experiences may exist simultaneously. The goal is to present information that has been consistently shared by those in attendance and available footage as we currently know. A complete and thorough investigation is being conducted by a third-party group to ensure objectivity.
According to multiple witness accounts, audio-video coverage, and personal statements from those involved, the following is our understanding of the sequence of events involving the CIF State Regional Championship game between Coronado High School (CHS) and Orange Glen High School (OGHS) on June 19.
- The entire game was hard fought and this energy was felt on the court, on the sidelines and in the bleachers. Numerous statements reference the actions of people representing both schools as contributing to somewhat of a “powder keg” atmosphere. There are allegations of inappropriate language from CHS and OGHS fans, coaches, and players, which vary in who “started it” or was “worse” in these interactions. The overall feedback is consistent that both groups engaged in behaviors that are not congruent with expectations outlined in the CIF Code of Ethics.
- A community member with no current affiliation subsequently submitted a public statement that he brought packages of tortillas to the game. He stated that his intentions were to mimic a college celebration. During the game, he attempted to hand students tortillas and encouraged them to throw them after the game if CHS won, as a celebration. No students threw tortillas at the end of regulation when the CHS team won.
- The first-person accounts and the videos show that the two student participants threw the tortillas only after the adults around the scorers’ table, representing both OGHS and CHS, escalated tensions by using profanities and insults instead of modeling good sportsmanship. The coaching staff and their supporters had a responsibility to model integrity and citizenship – to shake hands, say good game and to teach the players that what they just participated in was worthy of respect and admiration on both sides. To state that, really, the score was only a small sliver of what happened – two groups of young men playing their hearts out in what many have referred to as the “most competitive game of high school basketball” anyone has witnessed. It was during this ongoing heated exchange and interaction that the two boys threw tortillas. Adults representing both teams’ behavior contributed to this outcome. It was their responsibility to call their teams together, prior to interacting with each other, and show them how to win or lose with integrity and to remind them to represent themselves and their communities with honor.
The community member stated that his intent with bringing tortillas was not racially motivated, yet we understand from the immediate response, as captured on video and in participant voices, that the actions were seen and felt as hurtful and disrespectful. There is no denying that the incident caused offense and subjected our guests and Coronado residents present to feelings related to discrimination. We cannot diminish what transpired or the significance of the interpretation of the tortillas. I stand behind my statement Sunday morning. When we have given someone offense, the honorable thing to do is to apologize and to make amends. When I responded the following morning, I had enough information already to know that adults failed to adhere to the standards to which we hold ourselves accountable, there was an altercation, that tortillas were thrown and that the immediate feeling was offense and disrespect and for that, I was and am deeply sorry. As also stated by the coach and school community, these actions are not reflective of our district values of a safe and respectful environment. I believe that we can use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to learn and to be more aware and welcoming of all.
CUSD has taken quick, responsive action as it relates to our role. We denounced the behaviors within hours of the game, apologized to the entire Orange Glen community, held a public Board meeting to listen to community voices and stated publicly, as a united Board, that the incident was unacceptable, and actions were not reflective of our district or community values. In addition, CUSD took action to hold our adults accountable to our district and CIF standards. We are coordinating experiences for students at our two schools to reconcile through a lens of understanding. We will learn from this moment about each other’s diverse experiences and the power of our words and actions, regardless of intent. We will be a better and stronger school community through our willingness to reflect and grow with humility.
While we have heard community and media input, we remain focused on our priorities which are our commitment to students, fostering safe and equitable environments, and to following our established policies and procedures. The outcomes of our procedures are appropriate based on the facts that we’ve reviewed and are not influenced by anything other than our commitment to our students and school community, and our adherence to Board Policy, our Disciplinary Action Guide, and California Education Code. As we have received local, national and international scrutiny, in these venues, people are entitled to their opinions, observations, viewpoints and there has been some inaccurate and unfair information. In the first-person accounts, audio and video that we have reviewed to date, we have seen no evidence of antagonization by the players actions or behaviors that justify forfeiting the game. The young men on the court played hard, fairly, and earned the championship win.
Karl J. Mueller