Families of Fort Myers High Baseball team allege racism, prejudice at fiery school board meeting

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Families of the Fort Myers High School baseball team are alleging racism and prejudice in the team program and in the school district. They made their voices heard Tuesday night at a public school board meeting.

Families are upset because they said the team walkout last week was not even mentioned to the Black kids on the team, and for months their children have been subject to prejudicial behavior in the baseball program.

The parents have confided in local advocates and the NAACP.

“After that day, he’s lost all respect for Fort Myers,” Maddie Baron, a sister to one of the players said.

It all started with a text message. 

The text, sent by assistant baseball coach Alex Carcioppolo to the Fort Myers High School Baseball program group chat in February, read “Happy Valentines Day,” followed by a racial slur.

The incident was reported to the school and the School District of Lee County. As a result, WINK News broke the news that Carcioppolo was removed from his position with the team less than 24 hours after the message was sent.

“The baseball team needs more diversity. There’s a systemic practice of racism that has taken place in the district,” NAACP representative James Muwakkil said.

That text message, according to an email parents received from the school’s athletic director, sparked a Title VI investigation into the school’s baseball program. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

Nearly two months into the investigation, the team’s head coach Kyle Burchfield was removed from his position on Wednesday, April 5. WINK News also broke this news after confirming with LCSD. 

Frustrations with the baseball program over the last few months, culminating in Burchfield’s removal, led to a boiling point at the team’s most recent game, which happened just hours after Burchfield was removed.

The majority of the baseball team walked off the field in the middle of the game in protest of the recent turmoil.

Parents, with children who played on the same team, were at war with each other, getting into a shouting match outside the field that had to be de-escalated by law enforcement. Regardless of others wanting to finish the game, the team had to forfeit. 

WINK News broke the news that this incident was reported to the FHSAA, which has yet to make a ruling on the case. 

Parents then brought their frustrations and concerns of outright racism to the Lee County School Board on Tuesday night.

Some parents believe there has been an overwhelming lack of leadership on the team, in the school and in the district. Others believe the head coach was removed too soon and without explanation. One parent told WINK News that she believes deliberate racism and prejudice led to the team’s derailment over the last few months. 

“Not one Black team member was told about the walkout. So they weren’t able to participate,” Dee Tucker, the parent of a player said. “It was planned only for two Black kids to be left behind. This is 100% premeditated and malicious.”

“This has left me to question the ethics and behavior by peers and adults witnessed by impressionable young men,” Shane Riley, the parent of one of two Black players on the team said.  

“It’s not about the game anymore. It’s not it’s all political,” Madi Baron, a player’s sister said. Baron’s brother, who is still on the team, wants to transfer schools because of what is taking place. 

Some parents didn’t want to speak with WINK News on camera, fearing it may jeopardize saving the season.

“It’s behavior that he should have put a stop to,” Jacqueline Perez said of the now former Head Coach. “He’s the adult. He’s in charge, he has to set the culture, he has to be the leadership for that team.”

Perez is working closely with the families of players on the Fort Myers High School baseball team. She spoke to WINK News amid the investigation into the baseball program.

“He should have corrected it. He should have never utilized that language,” Perez also said of Carcioppolo’s racial slur.

“I was absolutely shocked to see this. This is not the man that I had known him to be,” former player Jacob Pottinger said of Carcioppolo.

WINK News reached out to the school district which said because this is an ongoing investigation, it is “inappropriate to comment at this time.” The team’s game on Wednesday, April 12, was canceled in light of recent events. 

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.