The principal of Vista High School on Thursday announced the cancellation of Friday’s varsity football game and extracurricular activities as an investigation into an alleged incident in the football team’s locker room continues.
In a statement to families, manager David Jaffe said the decision to call off the game was “the result of behavior at last night’s protest”.
The district says students involved in the incident will be disciplined, NBC 7’s Melissa Adan reports.
The protests were in response to an alleged locker room assault involving soccer players that resulted in suspensions and disciplinary action for some coaches, and was followed by a school shooting threat made by a player accused of aggression.
At Wednesday’s protest, tempers almost boiled over when a driver, who witnesses described as a football player, pulled into the school parking lot near the protest. The crowd of protesters quickly surrounded his car and appeared to hit or kick his vehicle as he remained inside.
In a letter to parents acknowledging the protest, Principal Jaffe said there would be an increased law enforcement presence on campus through the end of the week.
Principal Jaffe said while working in consultation with a third-party investigator and the Vista Sheriff’s Department, the school continues to investigate the protest incident, the disturbing social media posts about the school security issues and the locker room incident.
“This will continue in the coming days,” Jaffe said in the statement.
Deputies are investigating an altercation in the locker room and a shooting threat made against the campus.
Images of the alleged assault, what happened about two weeks ago, circulated on social media and spread rumors in the school community. It shows student-athletes picking up a 14-year-old and carrying him to a room in the locker room and pushing him to the ground.
The locker room incident was first reported to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department as a sexual assault, according to the department, but deputies say the alleged victim, a freshman, never made sexual assault claim.
The college head coach has been placed on leave while the SDSO, Vista Unified School District and a third-party investigator investigate the incident, according to Superintendent Matt Doyle. A first-year coach who was responsible for overseeing players in the locker room has been fired, Doyle added.
Doyle told NBC 7 that three players have been kicked from the team, suspended from campus and could face expulsion for their role in the alleged assault, but the punishment was not enough for the students and parents who got involved. gathered in front of the school on Wednesday evening.
“That’s wrong. There shouldn’t be a football team anymore,” parent Lupe Trejo told NBC 7. “No more playing football for a while to teach them a lesson.
San Diego County sheriff’s deputies were on duty at the school Wednesday in response to a shooting threat that surfaced on social media Tuesday night. Deputies confirmed the post included pictures of one of the disciplined students with a gun and threatening captions.
A post includes the caption “No face no case” over a photo of the student wearing a black mask and a backwards baseball cap. Another shows him with what appears to be a handgun in his lap. The third photo is the mask with the caption: “I’m thinking of shooting a guy”, and the caption for the fourth photo reads: “I can show you that I shoot someone in the head”.
Deputies determined the shooting threat was not credible, in part because they could not determine whether the student in the photos was the one who posted the message or added the captions, according to Superintendent Matt Doyle. Investigators were also unable to determine if the handgun appearing in the photos was real. This explanation was not enough to allay the concerns of some parents.
“We want more safety for our students and our family members because it’s not safe,” Karla Gonzalez said at the protest. “We want the victim to know that we are there and supporting them and we don’t want that to happen to anyone.”
NBC 7’s Dave Summers shares the latest twist on an incident allegedly involving Vista High School football players.
The superintendent canceled Wednesday night’s back-to-school party and said it would be rescheduled. The campus will be closed at 4 p.m. Friday, the principal said and asked all staff and students to leave at that time.
On Friday, Doyle sent another message to the community:
Every day, parents and families send their students to our schools. And every day, they expect their children to be safe, respected and treated with dignity in our schools.
Recently, a video capturing incredibly disturbing images of students physically and emotionally assaulting a classmate in the locker room shattered our faith in student safety. We want to share with you precisely what we are doing to deal with this situation and take all appropriate steps to identify and discipline those involved in the mistreatment of a classmate.
Jhe video of students taunting and physically assaulting a classmate, teammate, has caused our school community incredible pain, anger and sadness, sadness and disgust are precisely the reactions I had when I saw students treat each other so cruelly.
Members of our school community are asking questions about what we are doing to remedy the situation and taking strong and decisive action to discipline those involved. We want to share with you what has been done and the actions we continue to take to look at the bigger picture.
The incident shown in the video was investigated. It is very clear from the disturbing video that a student was physically and emotionally abused. Investigations by our district and a separate review by law enforcement concluded that the conduct was not a sexual assault. I want to assure you that these investigations included interviews with the victim and his family. I understand how the conduct was violated and how people concluded that a sexual assault took place based on the images and language used. As a father and educator, I am relieved to confirm that this did not turn into sexual assault. Regardless, we are satisfied that the conduct was completely unacceptable.
The behavior, the mistreatment, the lack of compassion and respect towards another human being is intolerable. So far, several students have been disciplined.
We don’t want our work to start and end with this single incident. We have an obligation to determine whether or not this type of conduct was an isolated event. Our investigation therefore continues and will continue until we gather all the information and facts necessary to guide any discipline.
On September 14, there was a protest at Vista High School, which was no doubt attended by people who saw the video and are as appalled by the footage as we are. They sing for justice, justice for the victimized student. We are proud of our students and our community who advocate and support justice for students.
We agree that we all want justice, which will ultimately be served by gathering the facts and addressing issues and wrongdoing that may exist more broadly. People who care about a cause have every right to demonstrate, to make their voices heard, to mobilize to draw attention to issues that are important to them, but they do not have the right to be physically or verbally threatening. The demonstration has become threatening and this is unacceptable.
The purpose of our investigation is to determine who knew what, when, who was a bystander, who was involved, and who is responsible. Please be patient as we navigate this complex and emotionally charged situation and as we do our job. Help us keep the campus calm and safe for all staff and students. Please, we ask every member of the Vista School community to remember not to jump to conclusions and defame the entire football team.
While this situation is incredibly painful and difficult for our school community, let us act with integrity and honor the brave student who spoke up. He shared a terrible experience with us so that we could seek justice. Our work is now guided by his strong and courageous voice, our actions will honor him and our actions will seek to ensure that this never happens again.