School Officials Respond to Racial Attack

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In response to a racially motivated attack against a Laguna Beach High School student that occurred over the winter break, administrators issued a statement saying those involved will face discipline “within the limits of our jurisdiction.”

“As a school district, we continue to work on teaching cultural proficiency, including self-awareness of how each student’s ethnicity, culture and life experiences may impact others,” said the statement issued by Laguna Beach Unified Supt. Jason Viloria and the district’s four campus principals.

Police are investigating whether a criminal violation occurred Dec. 27 when five students threw a watermelon and shouted a racial epithet at the home of a student who is black. None have yet been charged or arrested. In an interview, Cathleen Falsani and Maurice Possley, parents of Vasco Possley, called on the community to reject hateful acts against people because of sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

In the statement, school officials said, “Please be assured that we are addressing this matter with the individuals involved to the fullest extent possible. While it is natural to want to know the consequences of the incident, we cannot disclose further details about any proposed or implemented disciplinary action that has or may occur due to privacy laws.

“While this specific act does not represent the community as a whole, it allows us to use this incident as a teachable moment moving forward.  We realize this is an ongoing process that needs to be continually woven into our school and community culture,” the statement says.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to maintain a welcoming and inclusive community of which we can all be proud,” the statement continues. “Working with our community partners, we will sustain a climate that values diversity and fosters inclusion to equip our students with the values they need to be global citizens.  While this work is not always comfortable nor easy, it reminds us that we individually contribute to the fabric of our community.”



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  1. Lies, lies, and yet more lies. This obviously [Out of Touch} new administrator believes that discussions and curriculum have been developed to do what he says. Just another politician trying to appease. Reports are that this young man has had to endure other attempts to ridicule him based on race before at school. The community should ask for examples of programs in place that address these issues. I have personally spoken to friends who work at all the schools in this district and they all say the same thing; that nothing has been done to address this issue or other issues in the past. Mrs. Brown and certain former school board members should be ashamed of themselves. All have been much too concerned with popularity and not doing the right thing. Former superintendent Sherrine Smith and Theresa Dumb and assistant superintendents Doty and Keller will never take responsibility for their inept tenure and failed leadership.

  2. First, this is only secondarily a school matter. It is first and foremost a criminal trespass and criminal threat, terrorist hate speech LBPD case. The fact that the Indy trumpets fabrications about alleged “Islamophobia” and anyone who gets caught being homophobic in LB better be prepared for strict liability in press and police, but the INDY does an understated mitigation piece about an actual racial hate crime speaks for itself. That the Indy article quotes a teacher berating kids for not being concerned about race politics in the 1950’s speaks for itself too. The fact that the Indy refused to do a story and covered up a School Power video used for a fund raising gala that used school resources to openly discriminate against parents who criticized the School Board also speaks for itself. This ain’t Bedford Falls, this is Pottersville. It can be both or either at times, but right now it is the latter. If these boys had good lawyers and smart parents they would be plea bargaining for public confession and allocution so there is no revisionism in the the future that is so common in our town (like when the School Board actually orchestrated a lie to the public by denying it had ever actually approved the reality TV show’s production on campus. That is the real Laguna Beach. So to right the floundering ship, in exchange for reduced jail time after conviction in adult court the boys should tell their story, subject to expungement of the record after community service and probation.

    As for the schools, hiding behind privacy laws to avoid any discussion of “consequences” is cowardly and stupid. The School Board just adopted a bunch of rules about civility so it could silence public debate by imposing consequences on critics in public meetings (totally vague and unenforceable), but it is silent when the Head Football coach gets arrested for public drunkenness. Clearly that is consequence free misconduct, because the coach did not miss a practice much less a game. But now we are toning it not down by tuning it out when there is the equivalent of burning a cross on a lawn. People, you don’t do that. The kids want to claim it was a prank that got out of control, but you better have some evidence to back it up.

    That kind of double standard and immunity for sport team coaches like our drunk in public coach is what got Joe Paterno into trouble. In the meantime the School Board and Supt. spent hundreds of thousands to destroy the career of a teacher accused but never proven to have had alcohol on her breath. The male football coach gets a free pass and a woman teacher with a brain who teaches science is slam dunked. If you want to go march for women’s rights start with the due process rights denied to teacher Joanie McKnight by the majority on our School Board right now. The school should be negotiating counseling to allow these kids back in school, especially since this is not a first offense for at least some of them. If we got the facts wrong, that is one more reason for a public truth and reconciliation session. There could be extenuating factors, but a a general rule and public airing of the motives and facts is when healing can begin for all concerned. What a dunderhead mediocre educational bureaucrat our new Supt. is proving himself to be, the perfect little technocrat teaching the Board to thinking of themselves as co-educators instead of the voice and conscience of the community. You wanted a Board that is courteous, predictable, calm, compliant, well you got it, and the Supt. is running the show, we may as well not even have an elected Board. There is no one at the Indy, the School and apparently the police prepared to do justice. It is January 15, this happened December 27? Based on my experience, if the survivor’s family had not gone public, no one would have ever heard about this. The Indy would have suppressed it. Now the Indy is covering for the schools. Gee, what a surprise.

  3. BTW, Joanie McKnight won her court case, the court ruled the District had engaged in misconduct, but because she did not get all the relief she sought the School District put out a press release declaring victory as if it had been vindicated. The majority of the current Board participated in that miscarriage of justice. Clearly from my sloppy prose I don’t have time to proof read or edit, this is stream of consciousness, but if anyone cares about the victim or the perpetrators all this incompetent adult posturing by school, police and city will end and there will be swift action, just as there was last week in the threat to city council. The schools should stop talking about “teachable moments” and making students “good global citizens.” Good citizenship comes from taking responsibility and asking for forgiveness, telling the truth and making amends. Who, what, when and why, that is what matters here, but as usual it is about protecting the image of good news only civic culture. If there were mitigating circumstances or not, this town needs to get back in touch with its forgiving and truly compassionate character. But honesty and justice comes first, and it is doing these kids a disservice to delay both while trying to use defensive tactics that are all too typical for our city hall and school district.

  4. Thanks and KUDOS to Mr. Hill for his forthright comments. The parents of this young man hopefully are reading the comments by the public and their suggestions. What these boys did is illegal and punishable by the law. Whether the police will do anything is yet to been seen. The Laguna Beach Unified School District needs to be put on notice by the parents and community that this behavior will not be tolerated. Vasco and his parents will need to document all that happens while he is enrolled in the district and keep a record of all meetings. I would suggest that they be either videoed or taped. Why do I say this? I know first hand what this district administration and certain members of the School Board are like. Starting with the special treatment and advantages given to their children and the lies and conniving they did behind the scenes with the past superintendents Smith and Dumb. Does this ring a bell; Brown and Shirley Temple ringlets OHare? As for Mrs. McKnight that Mr. Hills so bravely brings to light; It is my personal experience in this whole fiasco and railroading of this wonderful, near genius, fantastic, hardworking, dedicated, and dear friend; Mrs. Joanie McKnight that the administrators lied not only to us but in court about what occurred on that December morning. That is what the jury found. Her right to privacy had been compromised by certain administrators, who went around fabricating stories from their imagination. Those present know exactly what was promised by administrators and never acted upon. In court, notes were presented as evidence and witnesses testified. All of this evidence proved to the jury to counter the lies and false testimony by district officials. This is why Mrs. McKnight won this part of her law suit. Those notes proved to be vital in this case. Was it not strange to anyone that the principal administrator at the school and one of the players in this whole ordeal left the district shortly after? This is why I say that the parents need to document EVERYTHING! I wish them and Vasco the very best!

  5. It is unfathomable to me that Vasco should be forced to attend school with the people that carried out this crime. This isn’t kids being kids. There needs to be consequences for such a hateful and deliberate act. The fact that at least one of the perpetrators was accused of a racist act against Vasco in the past shows that any previous punishments/warnings/appeals to common decency were inadequate/ineffective. The school district has a well known history of sweeping unpopular events under the rug. Just last year they made a blatant cheating scandal involving a “highly regarded” student magically disappear with no consequences. The student was still able to attend an elite university with little to no repercussions. It isn’t enough to give lip service to doing to right thing. It sounds like LBHS tried to “Teach cultural proficiency” last time something occurred to this poor kid and it didn’t stick. We need to do better by Vasco. That means holding people accountable and ensuring that despicable acts are met with commensurate consequences.


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