'Build a Wall' Chant Breaks Out at HS Volleyball Match

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Copyright 2017 Ventura County Star
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Ventura County Star (California)


At least one player on Simi Valley High School's junior varsity boys volleyball team shouted, "Build a wall," during a varsity match at Oxnard's Pacifica High School on Tuesday night.

School officials gave differing accounts of what happened at the match between Simi Valley and Pacifica high schools, which Simi Valley won.

Penny DeLeon, superintendent of the Oxnard Union High School District, said people at the game reported a group of Simi Valley junior varsity players chanted "Build a wall" several times during the match.

But the varsity coach for Simi Valley, Jake Kessler, said only one player shouted, "Build a wall." He stopped when his coach intervened, Kessler said.

President Donald Trump has proposed building a wall along the border between Mexico and the United States to keep immigrants from trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Jason Peplinski, the superintendent of the Simi Valley Unified School District, contacted DeLeon on Wednesday to apologize for the incident, she said.

"It was unfortunate and uncalled for," DeLeon said. "It's something all diverse districts are dealing with now."

Pacifica High School's enrollment is 92 percent Latino or Hispanic. The Oxnard Union district's overall enrollment is 76 percent Latino or Hispanic.

The incident apparently was not confined to the chant. In an email, Peplinski said the Pacifica crowd also taunted Simi Valley players and fans.

"This is all very unfortunate, and we are working with our students about their behavior, but it does not seem to be as one-sided as we may have thought," Peplinski said in the email. "We do not condone this behavior and are working to ensure that this type of thing does not happen again with any of our student groups."

The chant follows an incident at Buena High School in January in which two students sent a racist tweet depicting two black men who had been lynched. The students tweeted digitally altered photos of themselves holding the ropes.

There also was a similar incident four years ago involving two Oxnard Union high schools. In that incident, several students from Camarillo High School started chanting "USA, USA" during a championship basketball game against rival Rio Mesa High School.

Some witnesses said the students, who were sporting American flag bandannas, were pointing to Rio Mesa fans. At that time, the enrollment at Rio Mesa was 67 percent Hispanic.

DeLeon also said she hopes the recent incidents prompt school officials to do more to educate students about racism and discrimination.

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March 9, 2017


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