District Has Seen No Justification to Forfeit Game Following Tortilla-Throwing: Coronado Superintendent

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In a letter to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), Coronado's schools boss said the district's probe of a tortilla-throwing incident following a championship game last weekend had not turned up any evidence that would require Coronado's High to forfeit the game.

The three-page letter from Coronado Unified School District superintendent Karl J. Mueller to CIF executive director Ron Nocetti is time-stamped 7:01 a.m. on Friday.

Since last Saturday's division championship game, in which Coronado beat Escondido's visiting Orange Glen 60-57 in overtime, there have been calls by community activists and others for Coronado to forfeit the game, either voluntarily or by having it stripped by the CIF.

In the conclusion to the letter, Mueller writes that "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."

The letter from Nocetti follows a week of controversy. The story has garnered national attention following the tortilla throwing, which many people have called racist, and shined a spotlight on the mostly white upscale island community of Coronado. More than 80% of Escondido's Orange Glen High School student body is Latino.

After the final buzzer but before the teams from each side shook hands in a post-game tradition, people on the Coronado side threw tortillas at the team from Escondido and – according to Orange Glen’s coaches – told them to get out of their gym.

There was a squabble between coaching staff from both schools. Video widely shared on social media showed at least two Coronado students throwing tortillas into the air toward the other team.

Coronado High School's basketball team took the win on Saturday night, but instead of celebrating in good fashion, the team turned their win into what is now being called an act of racism, reports NBC 7's Melissa Adan.

The letter stated that the district's investigation of the game turned up evidence that showed there was regrettable behavior by both sides.

Mueller maintains in the letter that CUSD has no "agenda" and writes that, "according to multiple witness accounts, audio-video coverage, and personal statements from those involved," it's the district's understanding that "Numerous statements reference the actions of people representing both schools as contributing to somewhat of a 'powder keg' atmosphere." Mueller adds that "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."

Both groups behaved in ways that are not consistent with the CIF's code of ethics, the Coronado district's investigation determined, with the letter stating that the tortillas were thrown after "adults around the scorers' table, representing both OGHS and CHS, escalated tensions by using profanities and insults instead of modeling good sportsmanship."

Mueller goes on to write that the throwing of the tortillas "caused offense and subjected our guests and Coronado residents present to feelings related to discrimination" and that the honorable thing to do following do following such an incident is to apologize, which he does: "I was and am deeply sorry."

Moving ahead, Mueller writes, "We are coordinating experiences for students at our two schools to reconcile through a lens of understanding" and that "We will be a better and stronger school community through our willingness to reflect and grow with humility."

NBC 7's Dave Summers heard reaction from players, adults and leaders from both communities.

Since the game, the Coronado Unified School Board voted unanimously to release coach JD Laaperi.

Laaperi said on social media before his firing that a community member brought the tortillas to the game and that the incident was “unacceptable and racist in nature” and he did not condone it.

NBC 7's Melissa Adan heard from the Coronado High School alum who said he brought tortillas to the game so they could be used in celebration.

On Wednesday, NBC 7 learned that a Coronado alum, Luke Serna, announced that he had brought the tortillas to the game and denied that doing so had a racist component. He maintained that he was evoking a tradition at UC Santa Barbara, which he also attended. People familiar with the practice of tortilla tossing at sporting events, however, say the intent is often to distract during games, not as a celebration after a victory, though a search of the Internet did turn up results describing people throwing tortillas after the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos scored a goal.

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