Player, coach in bullying spat
Family rallies behind daughter over name-calling on MVHS basketball squad
The parents of a Mountain View High School varsity basketball player are putting a full-court press on their daughter's coach, alleging that the woman has bullied their teenager for years and is unfit to instruct children. They've even taken up signs, alongside family and friends, to protest outside the high school's district office Monday morning.
Contrary to the family's claims, Judy Auclair, the coach under fire, insists that she is the victim of a character-assassination campaign, led by two overzealous parents who have been attempting to oust her for as long as their daughter has been playing on the team.
The situation reached a boiling point on Feb. 4 at a girls' varsity basketball game between Los Gatos and Mountain View high schools. During halftime, according to Mountain View senior Sharissa Estremera and her family, Auclair called the 17-year-old "a disrespectful b-word."
Auclair denies using that word, claiming she called Sharissa a "witch," adding that it was not a good choice of words on her part.
Sharissa and Auclair were suspended for one game.
District administrators have declined to make any statement other than to acknowledge that an investigation is underway.
"We will make the best decision we can based on the facts," said Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District.
"It's not enough," said Shariff Estremera, the girl's father, to the district's board of trustees at their meeting on Feb. 14. "I'm absolutely disgusted and appalled at what has happened and how it is being handled."
Shariff believes that Auclair ought to be fired — and not only for swearing at his daughter. Sharissa claims that Auclair has verbally abused and bullied her since she began on the varsity team as a freshman.
Relatives of Estremera spoke at the meeting as well, backing up Shariff and Sharissa's claims.
"I have been singled out, put down and demeaned" by Auclair, Sharissa told the board. "Does any person of authority in this district actually care?"
Dave Navarro, the district's outgoing athletic director, also addressed the board. Although he did not directly defend Auclair or her actions, he seemed to support the coach and asked that the Estremeras and their friends and family stop pushing for Auclair's termination.
He mentioned that Auclair has been yelled at, harassed and "could file a lawsuit if she wanted to." It was not clear who this comment was directed to, but Navarro — who originally hired Auclair about five years ago — looked in the direction of the Estremera family and friends as he said it.
Earlier on Feb. 14, at about 8 a.m., Shariff, along with his wife, Melissa, and more than 20 others, led a protest in front of the high school district's offices. The group marched in the light rain, carrying signs emblazoned with slogans including "bully coach" and "our athletes deserve positive role models."
All of the protesters identified themselves as relatives or friends of the Estremeras.
The Estremeras claim that Auclair has had it out for their daughter ever since she was a sophomore. That year — 2009 — Auclair sent an e-mail to her team that contained several photos of shirtless male models.
Though the coach claims it was meant to be a joke, the Estremeras did not find it funny, and Shariff asked the board to fire Auclair. The board did not dismiss Auclair, however, so Shariff took the photo to the Mountain View Police Department, as he believed it was pornographic.
The police, however, concluded that the photos were not pornographic, and the fracas surrounding the e-mail eventually faded.
At the time, a parent who did not wish to be named, told the Voice that the message "was a joke. The girls didn't think about it. They were more upset by the brouhaha of the e-mail."
It was in the wake of the e-mail incident, the Estremeras claim, that Auclair began bullying Sharissa and working actively against the girl's aspirations.
"I believe there has never been a player of this caliber at this school," Shariff said of his daughter. "Yet, Judy has not lifted a finger to help her get recruited."
Auclair claims that the Estremeras were looking for a way to get her fired before the contested e-mail was even sent.
"I can't explain to you how upsetting this is to me," she said, "It's ruining my reputation and I don't think that's right."
The coach claims that she has never had any problems with any family other than the Estremeras.
"There's no one else who has a gripe about me," Auclair said.