Investigation confirms racial slurs targeting Lincoln High: SCHS principal apologizes and pledges change

Controversy has erupted as San Clemente High School football fans have been accused of directing racial slurs towards Lincoln High School cheerleaders (Lilah Kopenhefer)

By: Sophia Burick | Editor in Chief

September 25, 2019

On Saturday, September 14, reports emerged across social media platforms claiming that San Clemente football fans at the September 13 game against Abraham Lincoln High School taunted Lincoln High fans with hate speech. Lincoln students and parents shared their experiences, asserting that Triton fans had directed racial slurs and other aggressive behavior towards them.

Members of the Lincoln High community share their experiences at the football game across social media (Twitter, Instagram)

These allegations were shared on social media by SCHS and Lincoln students alike, spreading rapidly and instigating a spectrum of reactions. Some San Clemente students and residents were quick to apologize on behalf of their community, expressing disgust at the idea that their peers would be involved in such heinous acts. “It took a lot of courage for the kids from Lincoln to stand up to us like they did,” senior Kate McKernan said. “I think it’s a good thing because San Clemente really needed this wake-up call.”

Others responded with hesitation on the basis that there was, at the time, little tangible evidence of any offense. As SCHS and the Orange County Sheriff Department conducted investigations throughout the week after the incident, students shared polarized opinions about what they believed transpired.

Several comments from current and former SCHS students made under the post of Lincoln student Lilly (@lala_cali_gurl) expressed a lack of surprise that this would occur at San Clemente High. “The n-word is said as a joke around campus all the time,” senior Briana Mendoza said. “I just don’t think people realize the impact of it and how deep that word goes in history.”

SCHS alumni recount their experiences with racism during their time at San Clemente High (Instagram)

Even without an immediate resolution to the controversy, some asserted that a culture of racism exists outside of the context of this incident. “I’ve definitely felt very uncomfortable at school freshman year and this year, and I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way,” SCHS Black Student Union president and senior Kylah Wittacker said.

On Friday, September 20, SCHS principal Chris Carter released a statement formally addressing the allegations made by the Lincoln students and fans, expressing that from San Clemente High’s investigation it is “evident” that Lincoln students were made to feel “unwelcome on our campus.” The statement further confirmed that Lincoln High students were addressed using racial epithets in the restroom and that derogatory words were used by San Clemente fans in the bleachers.

SCHS principal Chris Carter released a statement acknowledging evidence that racial taunts were used at the football game and detailing the path forward for San Clemente High.

While many found the fact that San Clemente students and fans demonstrated such disgusting behavior to be disappointing and saddening, many also understand that the establishment and recognition of this truth is essential to progress. “The school and the media are giving the issue the attention it deserves,” senior Genavieve Koenigshofer said. “I firmly believe that San Clemente can only grow from this experience.”

Principal Carter’s letter also detailed the next steps for San Clemente High in ensuring that an incident like this does not happen again. A Restorative Circle and a one-day workshop have been planned in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League to address “bias, bullying, and allyship,” encouraging students to “engage in conversations about how to lead” and “respond to bias.” Many students agree that education on racial issues is the best path forward.

Only by listening to people’s experiences (and not immediately discounting them) and actively working to counteract hate will we send the message loud and clear that San Clemente stands united against hate,” president of Cool 2 Be Kind and vice president of the SCHS Black Student Union senior Esther Mafouta said.

Many students hope that conversation surrounding racism and its presence at SCHS will continue beyond the scope of this incident. “I think we need to keep talking about it in our classes and keep discussing it,” senior Natalie Cooke said. “If we just leave things unsaid then our minds won’t be opened to different perspectives and everyone will retain their initial views on the subject.” 

Growth comes from reflection, even when it is difficult. The Triton Times staff challenges you to take a moment to reflect on the events of the last two weeks:

Have you ever witnessed racism at San Clemente High? How did you react?

Do you consider the racial implications of your language and behavior?

What will you do to ensure that our school community is safe and inclusive for all?

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2 Comments on Investigation confirms racial slurs targeting Lincoln High: SCHS principal apologizes and pledges change

  1. Very well reported, Sophia. I’m impressed at the student and Administration’s acknowledgement of this occurrence and (now) obvious issue and the follow-up work the school community is taking on to have the discussion in a way that will hopefully result in positive change.

    • Hi Paula! Thank you for your response. I really hope that the pain of this incident can be used as motivation to grow and become better as a school and community.

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