Fresno school trustee under fire again. This time, blackface and cheerleaders are involved

Parents and community members are discussing a recall effort against Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic and asking the school board to censure him, after he allegedly scolded Bullard High cheerleaders during their practice this week.

The incident happened Thursday in the aftermath of parents raising concerns about two students being allowed back on the team after posting to social media wearing blackface and saying the n-word.

Slatic arrived uninvited and threatened to have students kicked off the cheer team or barred from attending cheer camp if they brought up the blackface incident, according to one varsity cheerleader who spoke to The Bee.

Slatic said if any of the girls disagreed with him, they should leave the practice.

The cheerleader who spoke to The Bee said the girls involved in the blackface incident should not be let back on the team. She said Slatic sought out the varsity cheerleaders, even though the girls who were disciplined are on junior varsity.

Slatic told the squad, “If I make one call, I can shut you guys down,” she said.

The girl said his tone was harsh, and the rest of the four-hour practice was awkward.

The Bee agreed not to name the cheerleader because she feared retaliation from Slatic and that she might be kicked off the team.

“I feel like he can kind of get away with anything,” the teenage girl said, referencing an altercation Slatic had with a student earlier this year in which the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office declined to charge him with a crime.

Another Bullard student who previously was on the cheer squad said the two girls involved in the blackface incident returned to cheer practice this summer without consequences.

“The district didn’t think about any of the other children on the team or anybody else attending school by allowing both girls to come back to school without any consequences,” she said.

The blackface incident happened shortly before school let out for the summer. The parents of the girl wearing blackface issued a public statement seeking the community’s forgiveness and saying they imposed consequences on the girl and agreed to training on culture, sensitivity and social media for their daughter.

This isn’t the first time Slatic’s interactions with students have come under fire. In January, Slatic was investigated by a private investigator after he got into a physical altercation with a student. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office declined to file any criminal charges against Slatic.

Slatic could not be reached for comment.

Terry Slatic Eric Paul Zamora ezamora@fresnobee.com

Parent reaction

After news of Thursday’s incident spread, some parents began speaking out.

One parent, Terance Frazier, whose daughter is one of the few African-American girls on the cheer team, said he was infuriated by what happened.

He called on the school board and superintendent to ensure the safety of students “or we will be left with no other choice than to sue them for all being complacent to this threatening behavior.”

“As a dad, I found it disturbing and unacceptable that an older man showed up at my daughter’s cheer practice to intimidate them and tell them to be quiet about how they feel having girls on their team that engaged in inappropriate and racist and very offensive activity about African Americans,” he said.

Frazier added that he thinks Slatic won’t face consequences because of his white privilege. “Had it been me, an African American man, that went up and hit a kid and then threatened little girls at the school, they not only would’ve fired me, but I probably would be in prison,” he said.

A baseball coach for many years, Frazier also said the school made a mistake by allowing the girls back on the team. It will do a disservice to them as they grow into adults because it will show them they won’t have to face consequences for their actions, he said. It also resurrected the issue after it was laid to rest, he said.

Censure and recall

Stacy Williams, a community organizer, took to social media to urge community members to email and call other trustees and pressure them to censure Slatic.

She’s also researching and coordinating community organizations and leaders to start a recall effort against Slatic.

“It’s insane to see what this guy has gotten away with and how he’s not held accountable,” she said, adding the lack of consequences points to systemic issues and racism within the school district and criminal justice system.

The district has no code of ethics or code of conduct for board members, and the superintendent is powerless since he’s employed by the board.

“What are we going to do? Wait until he really hurts someone before they do anything?” Williams said.

District response

In a statement to The Bee, school district officials said they’re aware of parents’ concerns regarding Slatic.

Superintendent Bob Nelson met with parents “to provide a forum for open dialogue and discuss how best to ensure a safe and healthy environment for their students.” It’s unclear whether the meeting took place before or after Slatic confronted the cheer team.

District officials are creating an action plan and will share it with parents for input.

Claudia Casarez, the school board president, said the board will revisit the topic of a censure. “Everything is on the table right now,” she said.

Casarez said as a mom and trustee, she’s sensitive to issues that affect the safety of students.

“We want to make sure students and parents feel the school campus is one of most safest and most welcoming areas in town,” she said. “It seems like in some feedback I’ve received and in conversations I’ve had, that didn’t happen in the last couple meetings at Bullard.”

The school board will review how trustees should conduct themselves on campus and when speaking with parents and students, she said. District officials also will work to repair some of the hurt feelings from parents and to involve the community in its plan of action moving forward.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.