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Pasco investigates Wesley Chapel High teacher for Trump-related racial comment

John Sousa, a teacher and coach of the boys golf team at Wesley Chapel High, allegedly told black students in a hallway: "Don't make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa." The comment came after Trump's victory in the Nov. 8, 2016 presidential election. Pasco school officials were investigating the incident. [Times files]
John Sousa, a teacher and coach of the boys golf team at Wesley Chapel High, allegedly told black students in a hallway: "Don't make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa." The comment came after Trump's victory in the Nov. 8, 2016 presidential election. Pasco school officials were investigating the incident. [Times files]
Published Nov. 10, 2016

WESLEY CHAPEL — One day after Donald Trump's election as president, some of the nastiness of the campaign has spilled into the hallways of Wesley Chapel High School.

Some African-American students said John Sousa, a teacher and coach of the boys golf team, came up to them in the corridor between class periods and asked them what they were doing.

"The teacher says to them, 'Don't make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa,'" parent Donnie Jones Jr. wrote on Facebook. "When my child told me that I didn't know what to say. I was blown away."

Pasco County school district officials, who received calls and Facebook messages about the alleged incident, acted quickly. They placed Sousa on administrative leave while assigning an employee relations investigator to check out the claims.

"We take this type of alleged behavior very seriously and we will not tolerate it," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. "We are following our investigative procedures and will take appropriate action."

Sousa, who is white, could not be reached for comment. The director of employee relations is scheduled to interview him Friday morning.

The comment is one of a growing number of incidents reported around the state and country in the aftermath of the heated and vitriolic presidential campaign, which often pitted whites against minorities.

A website called "The 74" has compiled numerous examples of fights and harassment since Trump's victory.

Incidents include fifth-graders chanting "Build the wall!" at a Hispanic classmate, and graffiti on bathroom walls telling black students to "start picking your slave numbers. … Go Trump."

"People ask what blacks, Muslims, gays and others that are different have (to) fear. This is what we f-------- fear," Jones, the Wesley Chapel parent, wrote on his Facebook page.

He later added that he spoke to Sousa. He said the teacher told him he did not intend to be racist and apologized.

In an interview Thursday, Jones said the teacher told him he was making his comment to everyone in the hallway. But Jones' daughter said Sousa pointed directly at three black teens.

"Unacceptable behavior at the end of the day," Jones said

He wrote on Facebook: "I believe he's sorry but he's only sorry because he's in trouble."

Several parents offered their support to the family and condemned the alleged action. By late Thursday afternoon, Jones' original Facebook post had been shared more than 3,600 times. It had received nearly 2,000 reactions and more than 100 comments.

Jones said he didn't expect the post to blow up as it did, but wasn't surprised given the current political environment.

"I'm waiting to see what Pasco County does," he said.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

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