In the middle of heated discussion about critical race theory and ethnic studies classes during a July 13 Salinas Union High School District board meeting, comments from a group of varsity basketball players on another subject altogether stood out: They alleged their basketball coach, Chris Jackson, has repeatedly verbally abused them and brought down the team’s morale.
“He abuses his power as head coach toward the girls varsity team,” Anahi Ceballos Tapia told the board. “During games he will take me out and will tell me, ‘Get your shit together.’” Appearing distressed, she paused several times during her account. She said she thinks Jackson has anger management issues.
The players said they constantly faced verbal abuse. A player who only gave her first name as Naomi said she reported two years ago that Jackson pushed her head, and nothing was done.
Another player, Fiorela Arellano, said team members complained several times but nothing was done. She said they spoke with the assistant principal and athletic administrator, Ricardo Vazquez. “He was making jokes out of everything,” Arellano told the board. “He wasn’t taking us serious. We should be taken serious[ly].”
Arellano said one of the assistant coaches will call them “babes,” and added, “he’s very flirtatious with us.” She said they complained about his behavior and he was removed temporarily from coaching the team.
A couple of moms showed up to support the girls. One said at least 10 players have filed complaints with the Everett Alvarez High School Athletics Department and nothing has been resolved. She said, in Spanish, she has seen her daughter cry over the team’s treatment and despite playing basketball for six years, she didn’t want to play any longer.
After the players shared their complaints with the board, SUHSD Superintendent Dan Burns said the district would follow up and requested their contact information.
According to a statement from SUHSD, the district received a complaint from the players on July 7, a week prior to the board meeting and staff investigated it; they did not share details of that investigation.
Jackson resigned on July 15. He declined to comment for this story.
Marcos Cabrera, the district’s director of communications, says he isn’t aware of previous complaints. But players said they have filed complaints over two years. (The Weekly has filed a California Public Records Act request seeking prior complaints.)
SUHSD’s complaint form is available on the district’s website in English and Spanish. In it, the person filing the complaint has to describe with detail the incident, note whether there were any witnesses, specific times and dates, and what steps they’ve taken to resolve the issue. Cabrera says the form is open to everyone, and complaints are processed by human resources: “Students do not have to go to the principal first when filing a [complaint].”
Results of a complaint can be appealed at the California Department of Education within 15 days after getting the district’s decision.