3 Serra HS Employees Suspended for Blackface Appearance

Superintendent Cindy Marten refused to identify the employees or discuss the details of the suspension

After two football coaches were photographed in blackface, San Diego Unified District Superintendent Cindy Marten announced their suspension and called the incident "a teachable moment."

Serra High School principal Mike Jimenez initially refused to comment when asked about the photo showing head varsity football coach and physical education teacher Brian Basteyns and assistant football coach Howard Seeley and a third man in blackface.

District officials called for an investigation, the teachers union defended the coaches' actions and parents were divided on the issue.

On Friday, Superintendent Marten said the coaches were apologetic and did not mean to offend anyone with their costumes as the Jamaican bobsled team.

Marten refused to discuss the specifics of the suspension and said Principal Jimenez worked on the discipline and action taken.

Pressed for details, a district spokesman later clarified that  it was three employees, not two as Marten announced, who have been suspended for two days without pay as a result of the photograph.

Lei-Chala Wilson, President NAACP San Diego Branch, said the organization hopes people understand that blackface is not funny. 

“In 2013 there is no reason for someone to have to be in blackface,” Wilson said.

Blackface is defined  as "makeup applied to a performer playing a black person."

Tammy Gillies with the Anti-Defamation League echoed those comments saying, "We applaud the strong leadership of the school district in taking this opportunity to further educate the San Diego community regarding sensitivity and respect for all people." 

Marten said those who consider the response to the photo as overreaction need to understand that it's important for an education system to consider multiple viewpoints. 

"Over-reacting is not okay and under-reacting is not okay," she said. "We're reacting as a community and coming together."

To those people who were not offended by the photo, Wilson said, “They are misguided and they need to learn their history."

Wilson said she was satisfied by the punishment handed down by Serra High School.

“As a community, we need to work together and this is a start and that’s why I’m happy about it," she said

Marten could not say if the coaches would be with Serra HS at Friday's game.

Basteyns (pictured right) and Seeley were also listed as coaches for the San Diego Force, a semi-pro baseball team in the Western Baseball Association on the organization’s website before it was disabled Tuesday. 

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