Education Lab

Cheerleaders in blackface incident not in uniform at Bullard football game, parents say

The two junior varsity Bullard High School cheerleaders who were involved in the blackface incident earlier this year had “limited participation” in the school’s first football game of the season at Buchanan High in Clovis over concerns about a protest, district officials confirmed.

Parents of other students on the cheer team told The Bee the two girls would not be in uniform at Friday night’s game.

Amy Idsvoog, a spokesperson for Fresno Unified School District, said the district has a safety plan for students and spectators that will be reassessed and updated throughout the football season.

“We have been in contact with Clovis Unified to make sure we’re calibrated for the potential of a protest,” she said. “We believe at this point we’re both pretty confident we’re prepared. If they want to protest, that’s absolutely their right to do so on sidewalks.”

About 20 people participated in the protest organized by Floyd D. Harris Jr. who said there is a lack of accountability for a girl who posed in blackface and used the n-word on social media in May. The protest was intended to show solidarity with black students at Bullard, he said in a news release.

The protesters gathered outside Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis during the JV game and held up signs.

The social media incident was the catalyst for a chain of events throughout the summer, including when Bullard-area Trustee Terry Slatic showed up to a cheer practice to ask the team to quit the “mean girl” behavior toward the two girls involved. Now Slatic is fighting a petition for a restraining order from one of the cheerleaders as a result of that.

At least one cheer parent, Dale Jones, said he planned to participate in the protest. He said he believes the girls involved in the incident should be kicked off the team.

“We feel the rest of the team is at risk,” he said. “You can wand people, check them for guns and knives, but that doesn’t mean when the girls go to the bathroom that another girl won’t attack them in the bathroom or people won’t throw things from the stands.”

Jones said he was joining Harris’ planned protest to be an example for his daughter and teach her to stand up against racism.

“Racism is purely and simply wrong. There is no good in racism. This is the way I was brought up, and this is the way I brought my children up,” he said. “It’s 2019, and in a few months it will be 2020. Fresno Unified stepped back into the 1960s by making some lousy decisions in May. They simply should’ve told the girls they need to sit out the whole season.”

Idsvoog said the girls were disciplined in accordance with education code, but education code related to student privacy also restricts district officials from sharing details about that discipline.

Bullard principal Johnny Alvarado, new this school year, has met with parents and spent hours on the phone with parents over the issue, Idsvoog said. Plus, students and staff at Bullard did restorative work over the summer such as cultural competency lessons.

“We’re hoping,” Idsvoog said, “to ease people’s concerns and get us back to the place where we can enjoy our kids being back on the football field.”

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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.