San Diego Unified School District: Serra High coaches suspended over blackface costumes

2 coaches, teacher suspended

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.

Superintendent 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."

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.

Despite the suspensions, Basteyns and the other coaches appeared with the team at Friday night's game at Morse High School.

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