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Coach, principal being disciplined over 'Bruno' photos

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said today that he was taking "appropriate personnel action" against the principal and athletic director of Birmingham High School for allowing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to use the school's football team in a photo shoot.

Cortines declined to say what the action was, citing confidentiality rules. Depending on the nature of the discipline, it could become somewhat moot tomorrow when the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on Birmingham's petition to become an independent charter school. If that passes, Principal Marcia Coates and Athletic Director Rick Prizant would no longer be employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Cortines has been incensed by a photo shoot of Cohen, in his role as gay Austrian fashionista "Bruno," that appeared in the latest issue of GQ magazine and on its website. It showed the scantily clad comedian in poses with the Birmingham football team, including one on top of a player on the ground.

"I don't believe that there is a place on any high school in America, including Los Angeles, for photos such as these," Cortines said in a news release issued by his office.

Cortines said he recognized that some people believe he has overreacted to the shoot, which might be seen as tame in today's entertainment landscape.

“I think those that think it’s no big deal generally don’t have children on campus," he said. "I’ve gotten e-mails from grandparents, all sorts of adults … who are embarrassed by this and believe this shouldn’t have happened.”

Told that some who have commented to The Times had suggested he might have reacted as he did because the character played by Cohen is gay, the superintendent strongly disagreed. "It has nothing to do with whether one is heterosexual or homosexual," he said. "There is just no place for this kind of scene on a school campus using students.”

Birmingham was paid $500 for the shoot, according to the superintendent, and the players turned in parental consent forms. However, the district said an investigation determined that the forms did not specify the nature of the shoot. The district also said the photos violated California Interscholastic Federation rules, which prohibit students from wearing football uniforms out of season.

Prizant, who is the school's filming coordinator as well as its athletic director, was present when the photos were taken, according to the district.

Coates and Prizant declined to comment.

--Mitchell Landsberg

Comments () | Archives (22)

Cortines, get over it.
If this is one of the worst things that can happen to your overcharged, educated (I hope) students then the almighty (if one believes in one....) please help us--we are taking ourselves far too seriously for our own good (not god....)
Do something important for your district next time you make the press, please.

I saw the photos and agree with Cortines that they are exploitive. The photo crew and Cohen himself took advantage of teenage students without their knowledge of the position the Bruno character would take with them in the field. The simulated anal sex photo with one football player is particularly apalling.

Some more out of touch adults meddling in kids lifes. Parents were cool with it. Kids were cool with it. probaly the talk of the school. But you 90% of anyone there would of loved to be in a photo shoot. Lighten up sup. work on the gangs, class size or teen preggers not some comdic photo shoot.

This is INSANE. Did someone forget these are KIDS? You cannot tell me the entire team and all their parents supported this!

I suppose it's okay to have the same thing happen in Duhawk's district? In a school attended by Duhawk teenagers?

Cortines conduct is a clear violation of the First Amendment. I hope there will be a lawsuit against the school district.

Does Mr. Cortines say anything about his boss (the mayor)
of his womanizing?

Those who participated haven't voiced complaint. Because some can't handle any gay issue, they're squaking. As a gay kid who matriculated from an LA City high school, there are more important and critical issues at each campus. What about the violence gay kids face each day? Cortines, say something about that.

Those same kids will be comfortable voting for a gay president within their lives.

What a waste of time and money. It was a photo shoot. Bruno is NOT real. This is a JOKE, and any normal person knows this.

Stupid baby boomers. Anti gay, anti abortion, anti everything. Hurry up.

I've been gay all my life but I find Bruno to be a ridiculous example of what my "family" is all about. Whenever I see him on TV I turn it off. He makes me want to gag.

Cortines focuses on Cohen's photoshoot because it is far easier to do then dealing with important issues like failing schools and inept teachers hiding behind tenure to keep their jobs. How much is Cortines getting paid to waste time and money on this non-issue?

"Kids" as one may want to call them are exposed to much worse in many PG and R films that they can easily obtain. Many "Kids" are subjected to far worse in their own families! And, many "kids" attending high schools are having sex and several of these "kids" are most likely gay. Seen Cohen's work in Borat. Anyone who signs a waver better get ALL the details first. This guy has been sued several times. Gay or straight, I think there are those who find Cohen far from their cup of tea.

what a joke. get over it already. it's for a fictional character in a comedy...big deal. my god there are much more important issues to deal with.

"The simulated anal sex photo with one football player is particularly appalling. "

You mean the one where Cohen is taking a snap (as if he were the QB...get it?) from the center in which the position that would be used for anal sex is the same position for taking a snap?

Clearly the picture was taken to see the irony of that particular situation. In no way is that inappropriate. I mean, Cohen is literally just standing there taking a snap. But of course, given the position and the fact that we know what Bruno is (gay), it makes it SOOO bad. I don't buy it.

This just proves how out of touch the Super is. He needs to be fired not only for this but for failing to disclose the names of the idiots who paid 90 million for a software that caused all the problems last year.

the film coordinator is the only who should catch some flak.
film shoots should make money for the school.
$500.00 is coffee & donut money. $42M universal film has more than $500, to pay for location, parking & students.
They got to use the school name, team name and their uniforms.
forget the farce 'bruno', prizant got taken.

All these posts saying it is ok are completely ignorant and missing the point. Of course Cortines is focused on fixing the issues with LAUSD! Two things here justify his appalled response 1) These are KIDS for crying out loud! They were in no way aware from the waiver what they were being subjected to, and they have been used in a denigrating fashion by Baron-Cohen in another one of his exploits. 2) This is another major public shame and bad publicity that LAUSD does not neet and that was allowed by inept school principal, athletic director, and coach. And they want to charter this school? please...

Oh, and hey. This action happens regardless of photoshoots.
Sure it's exploitive and appalling if expressed to the media. But it's been acted out around campus for our sense of entertainment. Don't think we're immature.

What's the issue here? If the students were ok with it and clearly got the joke, who cares?!

How much do you want to bet that the kids are HUGE fans of Borat and The Ali G. show?

I asked my nephews how they would have reacted and even though they had to specify taht they are not gay in any shape or form, the would have loved to have done a shoot with Cohen and all their HS teammates would have felt the same way.

I know that when I was in high school I would have done the same to be in a shoot wth Bill Hicks, Tommy Chong or John Cleese.

As for those poor football players, Im gonna venture a guess and say that they have picked on and done worst to the geeks, nerds and losers that they love to pick on. But in high school, abusing the weak, the different, the smart kids and especially the 'fa**ots' is part of boys being boys and one of the advantages to being with the jock set.

Like so many have said before, there are sooooo man problems with our third world education system that this doesnt even come close to the top 100 things that have to be done to make high schools a place to learn and a place where the weak kids arent terrified to go.

$500.00!!!! That's all they got???? The budget cut decisions that the LAUSD Board & Cortines have made will probably drive more schools to creatively come up with more unique fund raising ideas!!!! Their only mistake was not adding Ala. to the front of the jerseys!!

Undoubtedly, these kids knew the character, they are familiar with Baron Cohen, and wanted to be a part of the bit. Its not really exploitative. However, the school has its own interests and image at stake and they are well within their rights to take action over it. Maybe if it hadn't been done at the school, or with its name and team so prominent...


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