Submitted by Stacy Keszei
June 29, 2021
To the Coronado Community
I have asked the CUSD School Board President, Lee Pontes to remove my name from the public message sent out from the board on Sunday, June 20, 2021 [a copy of that message is at the bottom of this letter], in response to the incident after the Coronado High School vs Orange Glen Basketball Championship Game on June 19, 2021.
I also want to apologize to the Coronado community for agreeing to have my name associated with this communication. Unfortunately, the document was put out hastily and without a complete understanding of the facts around the basketball game incident. I, as a CUSD Board member was given only thirty minutes to decide whether to have their name attached to this document before the School Board President, Lee Pontes sent it out on the morning of June 20th.
A robust investigation is taking place on both sides. CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller’s letter to the CIF Executive Director, Ron Nocetti, June 25th states “There are allegations of inappropriate language from CHS and OGHS fans, coaches, and players. The overall feedback is consistent that both groups engaged in behaviors that are not congruent with expectations outlined in the CIF Code of Ethics.” Additionally, he states, “A community member with no current affiliation subsequently submitted a public statement that he brought packages of tortillas to the game. His intentions were to mimic a college celebration.”
That person, Luke Serna, a 40-year-old, stated he brought the tortillas to recreate a UCSB tradition. Further statements have suggested that Mr. Serna actively tried to recruit students, cheerleaders, and players to throw the tortillas during the game to celebrate a win. While I have no idea what Mr. Serna’s intent was, he most certainly is responsible for a “lion’s share” of the blame the students, cheerleaders, and players have endured. To date, Luke Serna has declined my request to meet and discuss this event.
In the recent L.A. Times article published June 27, 2021, by Gustavo Arellano, he states, “Tortilla tossing contests were held for decades around the Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day festivities in neighborhoods, and at county fairs from the Sierras to Southern California – the Los Angeles County Fair. Throwing tortillas at floats and protesters is one of the mainstays of Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade, the lawless cousin of the Tournament of Roses. At UC Irvine and Stanford, seniors did so during the early 2000s.”
In light of the statement subsequently provided to the board by the athletic director, as well as statements from Mr. Serna and other eyewitnesses, which the board was not privy, prior to releasing its initial statement, I do not believe this was a racist incident as portrayed in local, regional and national media organizations. I also agree with Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey’s statement June 28, 2021, where he states, “These are the same student-athletes that nominated two players of color to represent them as their team captains. This is the same community that recently elected two Latinas to the CUSD School Board. It was inappropriate for the CUSD Board to issue a conclusive statement before the investigation began, and it would be inappropriate for the CUSD Board to issue a conclusive statement now before the investigation is finished.”
Tensions are high during high school championship games, and student-athletes are not impervious to the stresses, jubilations, and disappointment associated with high school athletics. However, as more evidence is found and released, it is becoming more apparent that adults were the vast majority of “bad actors” during the after-game incident. While some students may have acted impulsively, I do not believe any of the students present acted with racist intentions toward each other. Instead, they were caught in a heated moment constructed by adults that should have known better and provided support and restraint.
We as adults need to “own” our actions, not “blame” our children, and use them as scapegoats to hide behind when we do not live up to our responsibilities. Adults failed our children on both sides of this event, and we need to take the blame, not attempt to ruin the lives and careers of our children. I own my mistake and look forward to working with our wonderful community to protect, encourage and teach our children through example and integrity.
Lastly, I have requested as a CUSD Trustee to reconvene with fellow CUSD Trustees (Pontes, Anderson-Cruz, Antrim, and Valdez-Clayton) to discuss this situation facing CUSD students, players, families, and our Coronado community. Unfortunately, all have declined to reconvene.
CUSD Board Member
CUSD School Board Letter June 20, 2021
On June 19, 2021, following a highly contested championship basketball game, video shows members of the Coronado community hurled tortillas at students from Orange Glen High School, a predominantly Latino school district. The Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful. We fully condemn the racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators and fully support the statement by Superintendent Mueller released earlier this morning.
On behalf of the CUSD School Board, we extend a full and formal apology to the Orange Glen High School athletes, known as the Patriots, as well as their peers, parents, teachers, and staff who were present during last night’s altercation. We have taken swift action and will convene on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, for an emergency special meeting of the board at which time we expect to hear the initial results of ongoing investigations and consider additional actions that may be need to be taken.