A former African-American football coach, who says he lost his coaching job after objecting to the repeated use of the N-word by players, appealed to the Roswell school board Tuesday night to tackle racial insensitivity in the schools.
Thomas Davis, who a week ago was involved in a physical altercation with Mesa Middle School head football coach Gabriel Flores-Delara, told the school district’s elected leaders Tuesday that the N-word has become ubiquitous among students.
“I’m here tonight to address changes that we need to make, changes that need to be made with racially insensitive remarks made by children,” said Davis, a substitute teacher at the Roswell Independent School District. “We need to educate the educators that are educating the kids.”
Davis said he experienced and reported racially insensitivity at RISD three years ago.
“Different board, different superintendent, but the same problem,” Davis said. “It’s the same thing again. Nothing’s been done, nothing’s changed. Things have gotten worse. It’s sad that we can’t get along and be human with each other, we can’t teach our kids to be sociable with each other. We just read and write, right and left, math and arithmetic, and stuff like that. But as educators, we need to teach social skills also.”
Davis said the use of the N-word, or an informal slang variation of the racial slur, has been frequently used by Mesa Middle School football players this season.
“The N-word or any other racial word that’s being used by the students, it’s totally going out of control, not at one particular school, not out on the football field, but just in general, it’s out of control,” Davis said. “If we don’t address that, it’s going to become a situation that’s ugly and we don’t need that. I’m a product of the RISD system and proud to say that. But being involved as an educator and in coaching, and hearing and seeing things that I hear and that I see every day, something needs to change, and soon. If it doesn’t happen, Lord forbid, I pray change is coming fast.”
Davis received an applause from the standing-room-only crowd at the school board meeting.
Victor Richardson, also an African-American, also addressed the school board about racial insensitivity.
“I think the use of the N-word or any other racial word like that is unacceptable,” Richardson said. “We need to try to concentrate on making a change on that. The only person that can change that is this board, and the mothers and fathers of the kids. They’re the only ones that can change that.”
Richardson said he’s made mistakes in his life, and has learned valuable lessons from his mistakes.
“But by the grace of God, I’ve been able to move forward and to make my life into something better,” he said.
School board reaction
School board vice president Ruben James Sanchez, the most senior school board member first elected in February 2015, said the school board would take the remarks of Tuesday’s speakers seriously.
“We are going to collaborate on this stuff because we know these are issues,” Sanchez said. “We’ve seen some things in the past that we have questions on. So, I just want you to know we are going to look into this, we are going to collaborate, and your voices will be heard.”
Sanchez said addressing sensitive issues and school district policies, such as one that would allow the Charlie’s Angels dance team to travel to events more than 300 miles from Roswell, can be a marathon.
“Sometimes it takes some time to get there. I wish it was a sprint,” Sanchez said. “I really wish we had a magic wand and we could fix it right now. But through time, you guys planted that seed with us, and we’ll look at it. We’ll hand off that baton to each department and we’ll work through this, and hopefully, we can help everybody out.”
School board president Mona Kirk said she agreed.
“I do know how difficult it can be to come up here and speak, but we are elected officials, you are our constituents. We represent each of you sitting out there,” Kirk said. “Our RISD is the largest employer in (Chaves County), so when you speak, your voice is heard and we listen.”
Davis told the Daily Record the fight between himself and Flores-Delara the night of Sept. 5 occurred after Davis complained to Flores-Delara about the lack of immediate disciplinary action for Mesa Middle School football players who had used the N-word.
Davis, a former assistant football coach at Mesa Middle School, said a player muttered the N-word to him after being removed from a football game last week, and other students used the N-word after the game while at the school’s locker room. Davis said he took one of the players to Flores-Delara for the student to explain his use of the N-word.
Davis, 50, said the argument between himself and Flores-Delara, 28, escalated into a fight. Davis said Flores-Delara head-butted him, and he retaliated with about 15 punches thrown at Flores-Delara. Davis said Flores-Delara placed him in a full nelson wrestling hold, and assistant football coach Kevin Fresquez broke up the fight.
According to police reports, Flores-Delara called 911 and reported the fight that occurred shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sept. 5, after a football game at DeBremond Stadium.
Roswell Police Department officer Laura Macias confirmed in a police report that Flores-Delara and Davis were the two people involved in the fight. In the police report, Flores-Delara is listed as the victim, while Davis is listed as the suspect. No charges have yet been filed.
Flores-Delara, a teacher and coach at Mesa Middle School, has declined to comment about the altercation.
Davis said he has lost his coaching position at Mesa Middle School as a result of the altercation, and has also been barred from the school’s campus, while Flores-Delara continues as head coach of the Mesa Middle School football team.
Davis said he moved his son from Mesa Middle School to Mountain View Middle School two school years ago because of how his son was treated at Mesa Middle School. Davis sent a complaint letter to the New Mexico Public Education Department in December 2014, stating there were problems with racial slurs at Mesa Middle School. In his letter to the PED, Davis said the administrators at Mesa Middle School neglected the situation.
Davis did not mention losing his job in his remarks to the school board Tuesday.
“I feel like we just got up here and did the same thing we did three years ago,” Davis told the Daily Record after speaking at Tuesday’s meeting. “I just exchanged some words with them. It went in one ear and out the other. Three years later, it’s a different board and superintendent, but the same issue. Three years ago, my son was called the (N-word) often at Mesa Middle School.”
Several other African-Americans attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Cleo Bland told the newspaper she removed her son from Nancy Lopez Elementary School seven years ago because of racial harassment.
“I went several times to talk to the principal, and it didn’t help,” she said. “The other kids were urinating, spitting on him and calling him names. This shouldn’t be.”
Laura Reese said her daughter transferred Reese’s grandson from Mesa Middle School to Sierra Middle School last year after he was repeatedly subjected to the N-word.
“Kids shouldn’t have to defend themselves from the name-calling and being spat upon,” Reese said.