Serra High teachers suspended over blackface costume

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – 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. 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

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