Coaches, teacher suspended for blackface costumes

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SAN DIEGO — Three Serra High School employees who dressed in blackface at a recent event have been suspended, San Diego Unified School District officials announced Friday.

A coach, an assistant coach and a teacher were suspended without pay for two days, district spokesman Jack Brandais said. The school principal will decide when the suspensions will occur.

Brian Basteyns and Harold Seeley were spotted dressed as members of the Jamaican bobsled team depicted in the movie “Cool Runnings” during a San Diego State University event over the weekend, 10News reported. The name of the third employee involved was not immediately available.

Coaches under fire after blackface costumesSuperintendent Cindy Marten said the situation at Serra High School in which staff members posted pictures in “insensitive costumes” did not reflect the values of the San Diego Unified School District or its schools.

The employees have indicated they will not challenge the suspension, she said. Marten said she did not meet with them, and that the disciplinary actions were handled at the school site.

“They are very regretful for the incident and express they never meant any malicious intent to any person or group of persons,” Marten said. “They have expressed a deep sense of remorse for the impact of their actions. They send their apologies to any person or group of people they have offended, and want to make it clear it was not their intention to offend anyone.”

Marten said the employees’ actions represented a “critical teachable moment,” and would serve as a reminder of the importance of “appreciating multiple perspectives.” San Diego Unified’s Race and Human Relations Department, along with the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP would continue to provide anti-bias diversity training across to Serra High School staff and across the district system, she said.

Lei-Chala Wilson, President of the NAACP’s San Diego Branch, said she was happy with the suspensions because it was an appropriate punishment and because it opened up dialog.

The NAACP began a campaign to stop blackface in 1950, she said.

“We found nothing funny when we saw that picture was posted,” Wilson said. “We held these teachers to a higher level.”

“A lot of students and athletes look up to these coaches,” said Barry Pollard, father of two  Serra High School alumni and Executive Board Member of the NAACP San Diego Branch. “They have to ask themselves, what message is this sending to the players? Think about what they’re doing, On the job, and especially off the job.”

“We had slavery for a lot of years, but we got rid of that,” said Wilson. “We had bias against women. They couldn’t even vote. We eventually got rid of that. As a community, we need to work together. This is a start and that’s why I’m happy about it.”

Tammy Gillies, San Diego Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said her organization applauded the “strong leadership of the district in taking this opportunity to further educate the San Diego community regarding sensitivity and respect for all people.”

She said she looked forward to the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League continuing and expanding its collaboration with the district and the community.

23 comments

  • scott

    This is ridiculous. Black face is from the 1800's. Get over it. If you want to move on both sides need to move on. Its a costume for Halloween. This is the media's fault for making a story out of nothing. They were at a private party. I'm really loosing faith in this country

  • Normal Guy

    Come on. They are dressed as characters in a funny movie. They did not do the old school black face with caricature features. If you want to be an Avatar you would have been blue. If a black guy dressed in "white face" no one would bat an eye. If it's done well it would be funny just like those costumes were. Lighten up people.

  • Vdub

    It doesn’t matter when black face was you don’t tell people to get over something like that. Black face is wrong but what these guys were doing was not black face at all. It was totally different from black face they were simply putting on a costume. They weren’t trying to offend anyone or insult anyone they were just dressing up for Halloween. The fact that it was at a private party should not have anything to do with their jobs. This drives me crazy because people make a big deal out of small things and when things arise that need to be paid attention to people don’t take it seriously because people are so quick to deem everything racist when it’s not. I’m a African American person and I don’t feel that what they are doing is in anyway wrong or offensive. But if anyone ever walked around with black face with intentions to make fun of or offend then we would have a problem. But this is not the case. These gentlemen shouldn’t be punished for an innocent costume. People need to find more important things in the world to focus on like hungry children and homelessness.

  • Brian

    unbelievably pathetic decision – perhaps Hollywood should suspend the Wayans brothers for there part in "White Chicks" – do me a favor and focus your energies on the kids in SDUSD instead of trivial BS like this.

    • dpk

      "do me a favor and focus your energies on the kids in SDUSD instead of trivial BS like this".
      Brian, this is something that SDUSD will never do since they're really just idiots trying to impose power We need to dress up as the Jamaican Bobsled team and pass the boot to collect money for the coaches that missed two days pay,,,, Read more: http://fox5sandiego.com/2013/11/01/school-suspend

    • Michelle

      This has nothing to do with racism I can't believe they suspended them! Truly unbelievable guess if you coach or teach at a HS you are not entitled to a private life. Wouldn't it be nice to put all these judgemental elitist and all they do under a microscope wonder how they would like it?

  • esco

    So much for freedom of expression.
    If there was no rule that they agreed to stating they couldn't do something like this, then why are they being punished? You don't write laws after the alleged "crime" and then enforce them, what kind of crap is that?

  • pete

    I'm just curious how BET (black entertainment television) and the miss black america pageant isn't considered racist? Answer: IT IS but nobody crys like a bunch of babies about it!

  • Allison

    Let’s rally up and back these coaches up! I’m pretty sure they are good people!!! They did not mean any harm!!! Somebody shut that big cry baby up!! What else has she got to complain about!! Take that giant stick out of her @$$!!!!!!!! We support you, coaches!!!!

  • Carolina

    I have a daughter playing AYSO soccer and most of the parents we talk about this issue, said that the coaches didn 't do something wrong, they were doing a specific personification in a halloween PRIVATE party for God sake!! What's wrong with these people, destroying the reputation of inocents that they don't know. I just hope " Karma" works for those. To the coaches; Don't let anybody make you feel bad, you will be fine,a lot of people support you guys. God bless you teachers.

  • guest

    I'm glad all the comments are on the same mentality as myself! I LOVED the movie White Chicks. I wasn't offended at how they made white people seem ditsy and "valley girl-ish". I saw a dozen Pocahontas costumes…but haven't heard the Native Americans complain. I saw Moses and Jesus costumes, too. I saw pics of Mormon missionaries…I was raised Mormon and I think it's a fine costume. I saw men dressed as women and women as men. I saw an Asian man dressed as Marilyn Monroe…doesn't anyone else think Dave Chappelle's white characters are hilarious! Let's quit being babies and playing the race card every ten minutes!

  • guest

    Interesting… How is it any different that a black man dresses up as a white woman for a movie "White chicks"? or the other movie " white men can't jump". Why is that okay but when you turn it around it's not? For goodness sakes get over it……

  • Fed up with Wusses

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? How is that not offensive to call people "COLORED PEOPLE"?????

  • bERTY

    REALLY? I AM MEXICAN AMERICAN AND DO YOU WANT YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE I SAW DRESSED AS "CHOLOS"? (OPEN SHIRTS, BANDANAS, NICE CREASED PANTS, BLACK SLIPPERS AND THE FUNNIEST A TEAR DROP TATTOO BY THE EYE) I FOUND IT REALLY FUNNY.

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