Phoenix North High football coach Bernie Busken served three one-day suspensions without pay for a Sept. 29 incident in which he “endangered a student’s well-being and safety,” according to a three-page report in Busken’s personnel file.
The file, obtained by azcentral sports via a state public records request, detailed the incident which occurred between the first and second class periods. According to the report, as Busken’s football players were exiting the locker room, he saw a student standing in the doorway and “allegedly grabbed the student by his arms and shoved him into the wall.”
The report does not name the student, but 17-year-old senior Mario Mezquita, in an interview with azcentral sports, said he was talking on the phone in front of the doorway when Busken approached him and told him to move. Mezquita said Busken then grabbed his arm and shoved him against the wall.
“It really wasn’t a big deal I don’t think,” Busken said.
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Asked if he shoved Mezquita against the wall Busken said, “I don’t think so.”
According to the report in Busken’s personnel file, however, all the witnesses who talked to Phoenix Union High School District officials said that Busken “pushed the student against the wall.” A staff member, who is not identified, also said that Busken “created the situation by pushing the student out of the way and when the student reacted negatively (Busken) further escalated the situation by pushing the student towards the wall.”
Mezquita said physical education teacher Joseph Bustos witnessed the incident and told him to immediately report it to school officials. Bustos did not respond to azcentral sports’ request for comment. Mezquita’s mother, Teresa Barbosa, said that when she learned of the incident, she immediately drove to school and met with Principal Juan Nunez. She said she told Nunez that Busken should be disciplined.
District officials concluded, according to the report, that Busken’s “actions toward the student were unprofessional and endangered the student’s well-being and safety.”
“When I got called in, they said if you touch a student at all you’re in trouble,” Busken said. “I touched the kid, and you cannot touch kids.”
Busken was fired as Mesa Mountain View’s coach in 2002 after an investigation revealed a pattern of verbal and physical confrontations. After coaching stops at several universities, Busken returned to Arizona high school coaching when he became Chandler Basha’s head coach in 2010. He resigned in March 2014, citing personal, family and health issues. He was hired at North in July 2014.