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Orange Glen High School basketball
A point guard for Orange Glen High School in Escondido dribbles the ball up court during a game against Santa Fe Christian earlier this year. Several unidentified individuals threw tortillas at the Orange Glen basketball team after a championship game this past weekend against Coronado High School. Photo by Rudy Schmoke
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Public outrage fuels inquiry into ‘racist’ tortilla throwing incident

ESCONDIDO – Sweetwater Union High School District has threatened to cancel future athletic events with Coronado High School unless an investigation is conducted into a CIF championship basketball game that ended with individuals throwing tortillas at Orange Glen High School players.

The incident occurred on Saturday, June 19, after an intense game that ended with the Islanders defeating the Patriots, 60-57.

Immediately after the game, an argument broke out between the coaches of both schools. In the midst of the chaos, several unidentified people started throwing tortillas at the Orange Glen players.

Orange Glen is a predominantly Hispanic school in Escondido — approximately 87% of its student body is Latino, according to US News and World Report.

It was unclear who initiated the tortilla throwing. Coronado Police Department hasn’t publicly identified a suspect but said that an adult male brought the tortillas to the game, according to wire reports.

Videos of the incident have since gone viral, prompting several members of the state Legislature’s Latino Caucus to condemn the incident.

“This goes beyond a teaching moment — it’s a glaring example of racism from students who are old enough to know better,” said Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

In a statement released Tuesday, Sweetwater Union High School District said they were “disturbed” by the incident as Sweetwater “has similar demographics as the Escondido Union High School District (EUHSD).”

“Should the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) choose not to adequately address these concerns, the Sweetwater Union High School District will consider actions, such as canceling any future athletic contests against Coronado High School,” the statement reads.

EUHSD Superintendent Dr. Anne Staffieri released a statement, calling the behavior ugly, unacceptable and racist.

“We do not tolerate behavior that seeks to marginalize, diminish or devalue a person for any reason, including race, religion or gender identity,” the statement read. “We must all work together, staff, students, parents and families, to look head-on at divisive behavior, call it out, and work to eliminate it.

“As an educational organization, we have the obligation and the opportunity to use this situation to teach our students, the next generation of community leaders, that racist behavior must not be tolerated.”

Karl Mueller, superintendent of Coronado Unified School District, called the behavior “reprehensible.”

“We cannot allow anyone in our community to be made to feel unwelcome and we send our deep and sincere apology to the Orange Glen community,” Mueller said.

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) also issued a statement:

“The CIF prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete, or school community…Upon receipt and review of incident reports from both schools, the CIF will determine the appropriate next steps.”

Both school districts said they would work closely together to facilitate conversations between both districts’ students, faculty and staff.

Multiple civil right rights organizations have also been outspoken about the incident and have offered to help both districts as they navigate the situation.

Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, said those who threw tortillas committed “racist actions that do not represent San Diego nor the America we want all people to love, value and appreciate, according to wire reports.

“Let’s be honest: The distasteful act of tortilla-throwing at a basketball game uncovers deep social inequities that are fueled by racism,” Maxwell said in a news release. “From marginalizing and dehumanizing groups of
‘others’ based on income and inequality. We are extremely concerned that the coaches on both teams modeled inappropriate behavior and specifically that Coronado High School parents and two team players threw tortillas at Orange Glen players.”

The NAACP wants the CIF to either rule that Coronado shares the CIF title with Orange Glen, or strip the Coronado team of its regional title altogether, according to wire reports. The group is also recommending that two players who allegedly threw tortillas be kicked off the team, and that Laaperi be banned from coaching high school sports for at least one year.

Both EUHSD and CUSD will hold emergency board meetings Tuesday night to discuss the incident and their respective investigations.

“Tonight, our Board of Education will be discussing a resolution to denounce racism, racial discrimination, and the district’s support for equity, safety, and well-being of all students,” EUHSD’s statement said.

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