After racism allegations, Temecula Valley High making changes at games

After allegations of racism at football games, Temecula Valley High School is adopting a host of changes at sporting events aimed at preventing future issues, officials said.

Students and staff from the Temecula campus, plus Valley View High School in Moreno Valley who were involved in the incidents, will undergo diversity training by the Freedom Writers Foundation.

The Temecula Valley Unified and Moreno Valley unified school districts have concluded their investigations into allegations that racial slurs were aimed at football players and cheerleaders from Valley View High, the visiting team from Moreno Valley in August, officials announced in a joint statement late Wednesday, Oct. 27.

In the joint statement, Moreno Valley Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora called the investigation “complete” and said that both school districts “have been in communication to understand what happened and how it could be addressed.” Kedziora promised that they would “continue to work together.”

In September, Temecula schools Superintendent Jodi McClay told her school board that a “majority” of the accusations were “unsubstantiated,” after her district’s investigation. The release did not address this finding, and McClay did not respond to requests for comment Thursday, Oct. 28.

In late August, Valley View High filed a complaint with the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section, citing several incidents of “hostile, unsafe, discriminatory, unsportsmanlike” behavior by Temecula Valley High students. Students were accused of making monkey noises at Valley View cheerleaders and calling that school’s football players racial epithets.

CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod said in a Thursday interview that his office reviewed both districts’ reports, sat down with school leaders and discussed how to move forward.

“We felt the next step was to try to make sure that everyone was aware of what had been brought forward, and have a discussion about what happened, how it’s going to be addressed,” Wigod said. “Both schools were in a position where they believed there was common ground in charting a path forward.”

When asked if any of the schools or students would be sanctioned by CIF, Wigod pointed to the districts’ joint statement, which does not address any possible punishments. CIF did not issue a final report and allowed the two schools to resolve the situation, he said.

The release states that Temecula Valley High will make changes at all athletic events, including:

  • Both teams will sign commitments before a game agreeing that “any allegations will be investigated and reported immediately”
  • The visiting team will have an administrator present for “proper supervision”
  • Supervision and monitoring of students’ behavior will be increased
  • Stadium fencing will be restructured to separate home and guest team entrances and exits
  • Portable restrooms and snack bars will be added on both sides of the football field
  • The new CIF statement for fan expectations will be used
  • Administrators will check with referees at halftime and after a game to “ensure all is well on the field”
  • Administrators will check with visiting team administrators before a game, at halftime, and after to ask about “potential issues”

“Our goal is for all guests to feel welcomed on our campus,” McClay said in the statement. “As I have shared before, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, students should never leave our campuses feeling the way that the Valley View High School students did.”

It was not clear Thursday if the measures would be taken only at Temecula Valley High or also at other Temecula campuses.

One of the new measures at all Temecula Valley High athletic events is to read aloud on the public address system a statement before each game, issued at the beginning of the school year by the CIF State Office, that advises athletes and audiences to “be mindful of language and actions at all times, treat others with dignity and respect.”

The statement says that “profanity, derogatory comments, or other intimidating actions especially concerning race, gender or ethnicity” will not be tolerated and are grounds for “immediate removal from school premises.

The Freedom Writers Foundation will train and support students and staff from both school districts who were involved, the news release states.

Moreno Valley schools have worked with the foundation for more than 10 years to improve the climate and culture at several schools, according to the release. Temecula Valley Unified has done similar work with Generation Ready, McClay said in the release.

“We know that the decisions we make now influence what happens in the future, and we are committed to ensuring we maintain a positive environment for anyone on our campuses,” she said.

Becky Sulzmann, a member of the group Temecula Unity, said she was “glad to hear of the progress being made and the support programs that are being implemented to unify our communities.”

Sulzmann said: “I’m hoping our community continues to grow and learn from this experience and do better.”

Jack Murphy, a Temecula Valley High senior who has spoken against the alleged racial incidents, commended his school for “taking swift action” and adopting new policies.

“I think the collaboration between my district and Moreno Valley’s will have impact and will prevent further incidents like this from ever happening again,” Murphy said, urging classmates and school administrators to continue the conversation. “Education is the only way that will prevent incidents like this from occurring. We as a school must do better and we will do better.”