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Ventura County Star (California)
The incident where three members of Nordhoff High's varsity baseball team "manipulated" their jerseys to spell out a racial slur nearly led to the cancellation of the team's season, Principal Greg Bayless said Wednesday.
Only after meeting with remaining Rangers players last Friday did Bayless feel comfortable in green-lighting the remainder of Nordhoff's schedule.
"I needed to make sure they understood the gravity of what had happened," Bayless said. "I needed to know just how widespread was this problem. I found they were deeply saddened and disgusted by the incident and I found them to be very sober about the whole situation.
"That's important to me because as we move forward they are representing all of Nordhoff High and what this school is about."
Three Nordhoff players were "immediately removed from the team," Bayless said, after he learned that they had used their team jerseys to spell out a racial slur that he called "the worst, most hateful and disrespectful racial slur that exists in our culture" in a letter to parents. According to a letter sent to teachers, the racial slur was the n-word, a derogatory reference to African-Americans.
From AB: School District Cancels Games over Alleged Racial Slurs
Bayless stressed that the three players were not merely suspended from the team. "They were removed. They will not be coming back," he said.
The three students now face additional school disciplinary action in the wake of the incident, but Bayless said he can't disclose what that entails.
The incident has mandated a shakeup of the Nordhoff program.
Even before he learned of the racial slur, Bayless said there were red flags raised about the baseball program. "There were issues and concerns of less than appropriate commitment and morale with the baseball team," he said.
Bayless stressed that head coach Sean Strben was not involved in the racial incident, but chose to resign to allow the program to take "a new course and a new direction."
"He offered his resignation, and I accepted," Bayless said.
The Nordhoff principal had immediately suspended all team activities after learning of the final incident. A game vs. Westlake on Saturday was canceled as were team practices at all levels.
Now the program moves forward with new coaches and what the principal hopes will be a new focus. Bayless met with players and coaches Tuesday night and changes are in place.
"We're doing a program reset," he said. "New coaches at every level. Practices will be restructured to combine all levels and provide appropriate direction."
Lance Wiggins, the school's football coach and baseball assistant, becomes the interim head baseball coach for the remainder of the season.
"We trust Lance Wiggins and what he brings to the team," Bayless said.
Rick Carreon becomes the head junior varsity coach, and the school intends to hire a former player and school graduate to assist at the JV level.
The impact will also be felt by the entire student population.
Bayless has instructed his Humanities teachers in English and history to discuss the baseball program's troubles in each and all of their classes.
"Every student at Nordhoff High takes an English and history class," Bayless said. "We felt that by bringing this up in their classrooms, all students will be involved in the discussions."
Bayless added that he believes in the integrity of his students.
"I don't think what these three students did reflects the beliefs and thinking of our other 700 students," Bayless said. "I don't think that what happened here is consistent with the values of our school and our students. I'm comfortable in what our school represents."
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