BELLAIRE, Texas – Community leaders gathered ahead of Houston Independent School District’s Board of Trustees’ monthly meeting, demanding two high school baseball coaches be fired amid allegations of racism.
“What this is is a miscarriage of civil rights and human rights,” Texas Statewide Steering Committee Chair of the Rainbow Push Coalition Dr. Candace Matthews said.
Matthews, joined by members of the NAACP, and other concerned parents and community leaders spoke out against the racism they allege goes uncorrected at Bellaire High School.
“What kind of example was the coach sending to his players when he didn’t condemn it?” asked District 27′s Representative Ron Reynolds.
At the center of the calls for termination are Nick Ozuna, Bellaire High School’s head baseball coach, as well as his assistant coach Robert Manuel. Both are accused of not correcting their players’ alleged racist taunts.
Since the allegations were made earlier this month, HISD confirmed both coaches have been reassigned pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Those who demand HISD terminate both coaches said the re-assignment wasn’t good enough. They also accused Ozuna of previous racist remarks.
HISD mom Erica Rhome, whose son attended Bellaire High School, alleged Ozuna wouldn’t let her son join the baseball team unless he cut his afro. Rhome alleged Ozuna made the remark in front of other students.
“Chop your hair. Chop,” Rhome alleged Ozuna told her 15-year-old son. Rhome said she has since unenrolled her son from Bellaire.
Attorney Kevin Murray represents Rhome, as well as the concerned parents of both Bellaire and Westbury High Schools’ baseball teams.
Murray said he continues to investigate other allegations and is exploring the possibility of filing suit.
“We’re looking into that,” Murray said. “We’re looking into the Department of Education making claims against that and also so other federal claims.”
KPRC 2 asked Murray if he had a timeline as to when he may file.
“It depends on the ending of our investigation as well as HISD’s investigation,” Murray responded.
While the matter was not an item on Thursday’s agenda, community members took to the public comment section to voice their concerns about the racism, a problem they alleged spanned years.
Christopher Tritico, the attorney representing Ozuna denied allegations of racism, calling calls for his termination a “smear campaign.”
“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 yell ‘F bombs’ at high school baseball games accuse him of being a racist,” Tritico wrote in a statement to KPRC 2.
Tritico continued, stating Ozuna’s 18-year-record at the high school speaks to his leadership.
“Coach Ozuna participated fully with the district’s investigation, answered every question, and turned in almost 100 letters of support from current and former players and parents from all walks of life, including many who were in attendance at the Westbury game and a witness to all alleged events,” Tritico wrote.