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LYNN — Stephanie Cuevas, the cheerleading coach at Lynn English, will not be invited back to coach with Lynn Public Schools after a racially controversial video of her went viral.
The coach, and board member of the Lynn Chargers Youth Football and Cheering Association, was recorded on an 11-second video putting her fist in the air and yelling, “White power,” before bursting into laughter. The video was posted onto the Snapchat account of Crystal Lopez, a close friend of Cuevas.
Patrick Tutwiler, Superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, acknowledged that Cuevas has been a coach for the Lynn English cheerleading team for the last few years. He observed the video as part of an investigation that was launched after parents and residents contacted the administration with concerns regarding her controversial comment.
“All coaches in the Lynn Public Schools system are only employed during the season for which they receive an agreement, so once the season is over they’re no longer employed,” said Tutwiler. “I’ve received a lot of questions around whether or not she is going to be fired and I could only fire her if it was during the fall season, but we have concluded she will not be extended an agreement to coach with us this fall.”
The superintendent said he doesn’t know Cuevas personally, but from his understanding, her students liked and respected her very much. He said her remarks weren’t representative of the administration’s core values and it is their responsibility to respond accordingly.
“This is not a comment on her character, this is more about our public schools being anchored in a set of values, chief among those being respect for our students and families,” he said.
Tutwiler said he has gotten to know the Lynn community very well and has yet to notice any racially charged issues within the school system, besides the viral video of Cuevas.
“The sad part is there is a lot of press on Lynn Public Schools right now and it’s all around an issue that I think we managed really well, given our core values,” he said. “But the media stories aren’t giving that impression.”
The short clip ended up on Facebook after Jarod Dennis, a Lynn resident and former football coach with the Lynn Chargers, viewed it on the social media app and used his phone to record the clip while it played on his friend’s phone. Dennis knew both Cuevas and Lopez from years of coaching their sons with the youth football association.
“If I didn’t know her and I saw it, I would still say it was a very stupid thing to do,” said Dennis. “In this day and age everything is posted on social media. A person in her position should have been a little more wiser with her choice of words.”
He said he’s under the impression the racial remark was targeted to him, given he has a negative history with Cuevas and he and Lopez were messaging back and forth right before the clip was sent to him. According to Dennis, there was a discrepancy two years ago over selecting the youth football team’s captain, with Cuevas getting upset over her son not being chosen.
“Board members want their kids to be in certain higher positions on the teams and if you don’t please these people they make your coaching experience hell,” said Dennis.
The former volunteer coach also said that Cuevas received information regarding his criminal history from when he was 17 years old. Dennis said the association’s president, Brian Lozzi, revealed his Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Cuevas then spoke about it with a few of his players and their parents.
“Brian Lozzi disclosed my CORI to the board members, which he should never have done, and she revealed that information to a number of people,” he said.
Lozzi acknowledged the history between Dennis, Cuevas and the association, is a bad one that no one wants to continuously have to deal with. He said Cuevas is a good person who made a bad decision in letting her friend record her saying the remark and now the Lynn Chargers and Lynn English are being thrown into an uncomfortable situation.
“I think she got caught in a moment and it wasn’t the greatest thing that could happen in the world, but she has accepted it and she just wants to put it behind her,” he said. “There is a lot more to the story than anyone knows and it isn’t even something you could explain clearly.”
Lozzi said Cuevas has removed herself from the board since the video was made public so she can seek legal assistance. He said he believes the association’s name is being dragged through the mud, but he doesn’t think Cuevas meant what she said in the clip, only that it came out in a bad way.
NECN reported that Cuevas released a statement on her social media apologizing and taking responsibility, saying “I was making fun of myself in the video because that’s my personality… And for the record, I’m white power, Black power, Mexican power, and human race power, period.”
Cuevas has since deleted all of her social media accounts. The Daily Item reached out to Cuevas and her attorney, Nicole M. Bluefort, but they declined to make any comments.
Letters in support of Cuevas written by members of the community and the Lynn English cheerleading team were sent to the Daily Item.
“The love that Stephanie has spread throughout our diverse team is contagious,” one team member wrote. “Her uplifting spirit at practices brings the team closer and helps us become more of a family. Coach Stephanie has never treated anyone on the team the slightest bit different due to color or race.”
“I have come to grow a strong relationship with Stephanie and as a Latina woman, I would not be writing this letter supporting her if I thought the slightest bit my beloved coach would look at anyone differently due to race,” another team member wrote.
“Stephanie is not a racist,” wrote Nicole Mcclain, who has known Cuevas since childhood. “I am a black woman writing this letter in hopes of helping all of those involved to better understand who Stephanie is, where she comes from, and to shed light on the fact that she may be more worldly, open-minded, and accepting of different cultures than the person bringing these allegations against her.”
The Daily Item reached out to school officials at Lynn English but we were redirected to the superintendent. With Cuevas’ contract no longer being extended, there is no word on who will become the cheerleading team’s head coach for the upcoming season.
“There is a lot of talk out there about this being a teachable moment and I think the message I want to make clear to my students is about being responsible with social media because there can be grave consequences when you aren’t,” said Tutwiler. “I’m not commenting specifically on white power, but Mrs. Cuevas did something not in keeping with her employer’s core values and posted it, so that has a consequence.”