NAACP investigates allegations of racism at Bellaire high schools

By ReShonda Tate

The Houston NAACP is investigating claims of racism and racist remarks allegedly made last month by members of Bellaire High School’s baseball team, directed at Westbury High School’s baseball team.

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“If a teacher or coach tolerates and accommodates racism they are perpetuating a problem,” said Bishop James Dixon, president of the NAACP Houston branch.

At the center of the calls for termination are Nick Ozuna, Bellaire High School’s head baseball coach, as well as his assistant coach Robert Manuel. Both are accused of not correcting their players’ alleged racist taunts.

Since the allegations were made earlier this month, HISD confirmed both coaches have been reassigned pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Those who demand HISD terminate both coaches said the re-assignment wasn’t good enough. They also accused Ozuna of previous racist remarks.

How HISD should react was the focus of a recent town hall meeting hosted by the NAACP, during which two Bellaire teachers spoke. They also said they were alums of the high school and urged attendees to let HISD’s investigation play out — instead of judging all of Bellaire High School.

“There’s a reason why we teach at Bellaire High School. On some level everyone at Bellaire High School has been demonized,” said Tanya Andrews, a teacher at Bellaire High School.

HISD Superintendent Millard House II also attended the meeting but didn’t speak to the audience. Before the meeting commenced, House told reporters he wouldn’t make public comments, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bellaire High School is 41% Hispanic, 21% Black, and 23% white. 

Christopher Tritico, the attorney representing Ozuna, denied allegations of racism, calling calls for his termination a “smear campaign.”

“Coach Nick Ozuna is the victim of a smear campaign which has left him unable to defend himself by his employer’s directive not to speak about the investigation while those who yell ‘F bombs’ at high school baseball games accuse him of being a racist,” Tritico wrote in a statement.

Tritico continued, stating Ozuna’s 18-year-record at the high school speaks to his leadership.

“Coach Ozuna participated fully with the district’s investigation, answered every question, and turned in almost 100 letters of support from current and former players and parents from all walks of life, including many who were in attendance at the Westbury game and a witness to all alleged events,” Tritico wrote.