Taft basketball coach Derrick Taylor suspended amid ongoing investigation by LAUSD

Taft coach Derrick Taylor talks to his team during timeout against King/Drew
Taft coach Derrick Taylor speaking to his team during the City Section Open Division playoff opener against King/Drew in February.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Taft boys’ basketball coach Derrick Taylor, one of the most highly decorated coaches in the Los Angeles City Section, has been suspended since Thursday in the midst of an ongoing investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District, he confirmed to The Times.

When asked for comment confirming the district investigation and asking about the details of Taylor’s suspension, an LAUSD spokesperson sent the following message, also sent Thursday to the Taft school community:

“We recently became aware of allegations of improper adherence to District policy regarding COVID-19 testing procedures at Taft related to students involved in some of our athletic programs. We are currently investigating this incident to ensure the well-being of students and staff and to determine if the procedures were in accordance with the applicable Los Angeles Unified policy. The District takes these concerns very seriously, and is committed to following up as needed, including providing all necessary supports to students, and ensuring appropriate personnel actions are taken.”

Sylmar players launch celebration after Victor Carrera's RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom the seventh

Victor Carrera delivers an RBI single in the seventh to lift Sylmar to a 1-0 win over Kennedy at Dodger Stadium for the City Section Division I crown.

On May 18, players and students watched as Taylor was escorted off campus and had his school keys taken by principal Daniel Steiner, basketball player and University of San Diego commit Keyon Kensie Jr. wrote in a text message.

Steiner referred the Times to a district spokesperson when asked for comment.

The suspension comes three months after Taylor guided Taft to a City title in February, the fourth of his career, in a season when he also notched his 500th coaching win. The event — and suspension — has rocked the Taft school community, as over 1,500 people have come to Taylor’s defense in a petition titled “STOP Taft High School from taking Coach Taylor’s Job!”

It’s been a tumultuous few months for Taft, which saw football coach Jeff Kearin step down in early March in support of Taft assistant principal Neezer McNab, who’d been under review by the district for an October incident in which she repeated a racial epithet while telling a group of students to turn down music.

On Tuesday, a group of Taft students held a walkout after third period to protest Taylor’s suspension. Some students who planned to participate were dissuaded by concerns that they wouldn’t be allowed to walk across the stage at graduation, said Evelyn Birau, a girls’ basketball team captain.

“I was told it’s a big risk,” said Birau, who chose not to walk out after a conversation with faculty.

Despite continued support, Taylor’s job looks in jeopardy.

“Exactly what I’m being investigated for, I’m not sure yet … I’m just in a holding pattern,” Taylor said on Thursday. “That’s currently all I can say at the moment.”