They were short, simple text messages from simple minded administrators. They depicted the school's head football coach of Hispanic heritage, Matt Ortega, as a "taco" or "burro." Once word of the text messages leaked to the public, they were never going to survive.
They didn't. After a bitter week in which former Coatesville, Pa. Superintendent Richard Como and Coatesville High (Coatesville, Pa.) athletic director Jim Donato were thrown directly into the crucible of a racism scandal, the Coatesville school board accepted the resignation of both men.
As noted in this terrific column from the Philadelphia Inquirer's Rick O'Brien, the most shocking part of the Coatesville scandal isn't that it occurred; it's where it occurred. Coatesville is one of the most integrated towns in the larger Philadelphia region. It high school has a population of students that makes minorities an almost even par with their white classmates.
According to some, race isn't even a divisive issue at the school.
Sadly, it was for both Como and Donato. While the school's football team brought the team together, powered by a run to the Class AAAA football state title game in 2012, Como and Donato were busy denigrating the man leading that very team, a respected coach who also serves as a dean of students at Coatesville High.
Ortega was hardly the two men's only target. Other teachers were demeaned with stereotypical sexist terminology. Even students were thrown under the yoke of racial epithets. Seemingly no one escaped free of their judgment.
Luckily, there is a winner at the end of this story, and it's Ortega. The football coach refuses to pile on to the now-departed officials, saying only that "it's upsetting … But … I've been down this road before."
More importantly, Ortega understands that while he was a victim, he can also help steer a big part of the solution. He's already hard at work on that with his team, and he doesn't plan to stop until the Red Raiders are eliminated from the state playoffs.
"As a team, we're going to try to help with [the healing process]," the coach said. "We want to represent the school and Coatesville the best way possible."