By Charlotte Aguilar
After a year of reassignment while being investigated, Nick Ozuna was cleared to return to his job as head baseball coach at Bellaire HS in a 4-3 vote by Houston ISD trustees Thursday.
His attorney told news media the veteran of 18 years as a Bellaire coach — six of them as head coach — could be back on the diamond as early as next week.
Ozuna had been accused of allowing a racist culture to exist on the team, and two separate investigations were conducted by HISD. One looked into a charge that Ozuna had discriminated against a black Bellaire player by mocking his afro hairstyle and ordering him to cut it. That student quit the team and left the school.
The second involved an incident when Bellaire HS players allegedly harassed the black pitcher on the Westbury HS team at a March 2022 game, making monkey noises and uttering racial slurs. Westbury parents charged that Ozuna did not intervene.
Ozuna’ s attorney, Chris Tritico, argued at Thursday’s grievance hearing that the investigation had been launched with “preconceived notions,” with an eye toward firing the coach.
“The board agreed with us that the investigation was flawed, that they have no policies ensuring a fair investigation, and that because of the flawed investigation and lack of policies, the investigation was targeted to make sure that he lost,” the attorney told ABC-13 news.
Ozuna’s history with Bellaire baseball extends back beyond his coaching tenure. He played infield on the varsity in the early 1990s when he was part of a state championship team, and was inducted into the school’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Many in the Bellaire community came to his defense, calling him a model coach, and a petition seeking his reinstatement attracted more than 1,600 supporters.
District V Trustee Sue Deigaard, who represents Bellaire and West U, was among the four voting for Ozuna’s reinstatement.
In addition to Ozuna returning to his coaching job from a teaching assignment at Milby HS, his personnel file will reportedly be cleared of the charges, and an open letter will be written by the district stating that he has not committed racist or discriminatory acts against students.