By Ken Stone,Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: On Sept. 12, Christian High School forfeited a girls volleyball game. Rumors included the presence of a lesbian player for Helix.
September 26, 2023 (La Mesa) - After Christian High School of El Cajon abruptly forfeited a girls varsity volleyball match with Helix Charter High School, the La Mesa school’s athletic director sought in vain to learn why.
Christian High School officials gave vague responses — prompting Helix to ask San Diego’s CIF office to review the matter.
The first response — shared by Christian High’s Jeanelle Benton in the school’s athletic office — was the team forfeited “because of circumstances they encountered with our team,” referring to the Scotties.
Then, according to a timeline obtained via a Public Records Act request, Helix athletic director Damon Chase wrote:
At 2:27 pm (Sept. 12), our coach received a text from Christian Coach Davis Ransom stating that “a situation has risen that necessitates us forfeiting tonight’s varsity volleyball match. I am sorry for the late notice.”
Almost two weeks ago, Times of San Diego quoted a source who wanted to remain anonymous that a lesbian’s presence on the Helix varsity team was the reason for the forfeit. Helix said it didn’t know why the match was forfeited, and Christian High School never responded to my queries.
But Chase texted Helix volleyball coach Zoe Varela-Beltz about text messages she had received.
“We believe that Christian H.S. student-athletes, admin … and parents assumed that we have a transgender student on our team,” Chase said in email to the Grossmont Union High School District and Joe Heinz, commissioner of the CIF-San Diego section. “We do not have a transgender student-athlete on our volleyball team and it should not matter if we did.”
At no point did anyone from Christian H.S. reach out to any coach, administrator or Athletic Director at Helix Charter H.S. regarding any concerns related to the cancellation of yesterday’s match. Calls from myself to the Christian H.S. Athletic Director has yet to be returned. We believe very strongly that this type of action by member schools violates the principles of what education based athletics are all about. We believe that there is no place for discrimination, hate, intolerance, bigotry in our society. The actions by Christian H.S. violate the CIF Code of Conduct and Six Pillars of Character, CA Law and Title IX. We trust that you will handle this matter appropriately.
According to text messages with coach Varela-Beltz: “The whole thing initially started with a student rumor and it sounded like the school/program leadership did very little or nothing at all to vet the rumor, and just cancelled with our AD. However, they told the parent body that they (Christian HS coach) spoke to the Helix coach (I’m assuming they were referring to you) and verified their suspicions about a particular player that confirmed to the players’ concerns.”
Later, a Varela-Beltz text message said:
I just got off the phone with a fellow softball parent that has a daughter on the Christian HS Volleyball team. Christian had a program-wide meeting earlier this afternoon regarding what happened today. She shared how this happened, and it appears their story has morphed over the course of the day to one they can go public with and sound less like a bunch of bigoted amateurs.
However, it wasn’t until they spoke to the AD, that all 3 matches [including junior varsity and freshman teams] were cancelled…. I completely agree with his decision. They were so out of line and I’m sure also violate a slew of ethics and rules they must subscribe to for membership into CIF and other Sports Participation. Loose lips can sink ships.
The day after the canceled games, Helix executive director Kevin Osborn wrote Christian High officials: “Due to rumors related to why Christian officials cancelled the varsity match, our school needed to gather our student-athletes in our gymnasium to address the matter in support of our students’ social-emotional well being. I would like to discuss this matter to clarify the reason for the cancellation.”
Osborn sought a teleconference with Christian High but didn’t get an immediate response.
In emails to CIF chief Heinz, Osborn noted how opposing schools had previously been “very responsive” in sharing reasons for canceling sports events, such as numerous injuries.
“However, I have never had school officials not respond and be forthright as to why they needed to cancel a game or match,” Osborn wrote.
He said Helix suspected rumors circulating in the community but had no direct evidence about the actual reason.
“If we receive any evidence, we will forward it to CIF,” Osborn wrote. “Either way, we deserve an explanation as to why we were notified about the forfeiture last minute, which caused our student-athletes to miss an athletic opportunity they deserved to have. If evidence is uncovered that the reason for cancellation is related to gender or sexual orientation issues, then we hope the CIF takes appropriate actions to ensure that this does not happen to the student-athletes of other member schools.”
San Diego-CIF didn’t immediately respond to further questions about this matter.