Parents and activists demand the firing of Bellaire High School baseball coaches as they deny racism claims

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — For weeks, some parents and community leaders at Westbury High School have called for Bellaire High School baseball coaches to be fired. On Thursday evening, they submitted their requests directly to the Houston ISD school board.

“Racism doesn’t need to exist in our schools. It doesn’t need to exist in our state. Our kids shouldn’t be subjected to it. You’re all in a position because we put you there. So we expect you to hold this man and his assistant accountable otherwise I’m coming for every one of your seats,” said Dr. Candice Matthews, chair of the steering committee of the nation-wide Rainbow Push Coalition. State, addressed to the Directors and Superintendent.

SEE ALSO: Bellaire HS baseball coach on furlough as video shows tempers flare over controversial game

The issue dates back to a March 25 baseball game between Westbury and Bellaire and allegations of racial taunting. As a result of this controversy, the district launched an investigation and reassigned Bellaire’s head coach and assistant.

Community leaders repeated their calls outside HISD headquarters for Bellaire baseball coaches to be fired for doing nothing to stop their players from allegedly making references to monkeys and bananas during the game.

Coach Nick Ozuna was instructed not to comment during the district investigation, but his attorney said things were taken out of context. He thinks the coaches will be cleared if the cooler heads prevail.

“I agree that there should be district disciplinary action against the coach and assistant coach because that’s not the example we need to set,” said state Rep. Ron Reynolds.

“I want to talk to people who look like me. You can’t tolerate this. Silence in the face of this is complicity,” State Representative Jon Rosenthal said.

State officials stood shoulder to shoulder with community leaders and parents demanding that HISD terminate the contracts of Ozuna and assistant coach Robert Manuel.

SEE ALSO: Bellaire baseball program under 2 discrimination investigations

“I hope and pray that not only will my son receive justice, but that all of these children will receive justice,” mother Erica Rhone said.

Rhone previously spoke with ABC13 about her son’s retirement from the Bellaire baseball team. She said Coach Ozuna wouldn’t let him play because of his afro hairstyle. The District is now looking into those claims as they investigate what happened in the Bellaire game against Westbury a few months later.

“The school district could and should have done more than pat them on the wrist. They always sweep things under the rug. So yes, we want this racist fired,” said community activist Travis McGee.

Ozuna’s lawyers have always denied the accusations of racism. They also disagree with what Westbury’s parents said happened at the game, although they did not elaborate further citing the inquest.

The law firm Tritico Rainey, PLLC sent the following statement in response:

“Coach Nick Ozuna is the victim of a smear campaign, which has left him unable to defend himself by his employer’s directive not to speak about the investigation while those who shout F-bombs—- at high school baseball games accuse him of being a racist.For 18 years, Coach Ozuna led the Belaire Baseball team and had one of the most winning programs in Texas.He instills discipline and professionalism to its players to ensure that they enter college or a career ready to face the new challenges that post high school life welcomes our children. To this end, it has a set of rules that all players must follow, regardless of race or ethnicity Coach Ozuna fully participated in the district survey, answered all questions and delivered nearly 100 letters of support from players and parents current and former from all walks of life, including many participants at the Westbury game and witnesses to all the alleged events. We are confident that the investigation will clear up Coach Ozuna and he will soon be able to join his school and his team, for the conclusion of the district game and the playoff citation. soon, for the conclusion of the district game and the playoffs.”

Trustees were unable to comment on the matter at Thursday’s board meeting because it was not on the agenda, but an HISD spokesperson said the investigation was underway and that the status of the persons involved had not changed. Coaches are currently working at other schools pending the outcome of the investigation.

But lawyer Kevin Murray said that doesn’t go far enough: “Ultimately, the extremely outrageous conduct of the players, coaches and everyone involved in these discriminatory acts by Bellaire is the subject of a investigated and they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Murray said he represents black families on both teams. He said federal claims and civil actions are both on the table as activists focus on firing coaches and parents focus on protecting their players.

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