UPDATE March 7, 2024: Escuela Grind's former tour manager Chris Cotter has responded to the allegations made against him by the band's former bus driver Destiny Hopper in a statement provided to Loudwire. Read the full statement toward the bottom of the page.

Why is everyone talking about the Escuela Grind feud? There's been a lot of discussion online about them the last few days, so we're going to try and break down what's going on with them.

Escuela Grind are a hardcore band that formed in Massachusetts in 2016, though they were formally just known as Escuela until 2019. Until recently, the group consisted of vocalist Katerina Economou, drummer Jesse Fuentes, bassist and guitarist Krissy Morash and guitarist Tom Sifuentes. However, Sifuentes announced his departure from the group last week.

Now, there are other claims surfacing online about the band, some of which they have addressed. There's some explosive back and forth between members and their driver as well.

Needless to say, there's a lot being said about Escuela Grind right now, so we're going to do our best to explain what's happening.

Why Did Tom Sifuentes Leave Escuela Grind?

Sifuentes shared a statement on his Instagram on Feb. 16 announcing the band's next two performances as his last with them.

"I was informed I’m being replaced after bringing up some safety concerns," he wrote. "It was a fucking honor exerting every ounce of energy I had for you, all those shows. I was gettin busy [not gonna lie]! The greatest times though, above all else, was meeting all of you! My new friends. You all pulled me in and sold me on this life again after many years away from heavy music. Until next time you murfuggers! [sic]"

The comments on the post have since been disabled, but someone posted a screenshot of some comments before they were turned off on Reddit. One individual wrote on Sifuentes' post that it's "kind of lame" that he was let go after voicing safety concerns, and he replied that there isn't any drama between him and the band.

"I brought it up, and tried to address how the other members didn't care my safety/hearing was jeopardized carelessly, and instead they wanted to make excuses for the other member. I was battled at every step for literally trying to not have it happen again," he elaborated.

"And in response, it was told I was whining and 'killing the vibe.' Then was told, 'We're looking for a replacement anyways.' But that's it."

What Did Escuela Grind's Tour Driver Say About the Band?

Several days after Sifuentes shared the news of his departure from the band, their former tour bus driver wrote a post on Instagram describing her experience working with the band, stating that there was a lot of "mistreatment throughout the entire tour."

"I kept my mouth shut where I could, and just hung in there until I saw an exit. I looked crazy on the internet for a second pushing people until I got some form of apology. But, the apologies never came, I never got paid in full, you kicked my best homie out of the band, and you clowns are on your way home. So let’s fucking get it," she wrote.

The driver called out members of the band individually, including Fuentes, whom she said is "trash," and further accused him of sexually harassing her every day. She also alleged that the band's tour manager, Chris Kotter, flirted with her "nonstop" and called him a "predator."

"Katerina, it’s disgusting to me that you would stand up there on stage every night and pretend to be a voice for the girls, gays, and theys but you didn’t advocate for a single one that I saw. Weird. You allow Jesse to ruin your band’s reputation and honestly everyone’s mental health that I saw. But, I’m just a fucking driver, what do I know," she continued, a remark that was directed at Economou.

"Tom, Ryan, and Krissy. I wish you all the best. I mean that. Love and respect y’all," she concluded in a comment on the post.

What Did Escuela Grind Say in Response to the Claims?

Morash responded to the tour driver's claims in a comment on her post, essentially accusing her of failing to do her job correctly.

"We were happy to let you go because not only did you lie about being able to park trailers, you let your emotions effect your driving capabilities, aggressively driving behind/yelling at other cars (we have had friends get their vans SHOT at for this) you were not getting rest for long drives and chose to party with other bands and drink before we left venues," Morash said.

The bassist added that the band was extremely accommodating for the driver, noting the Airbnbs that they rented while on tour so that everyone would be comfortable.

"Day 3 in D.C. after damaging our van, we still showed you love and compassion. Jesse sat and talked to you for hours in the cold because we believed in you. To turn around and not consider any of this shows your true behavior and it is disheartening," Morash went on.

"I am not feeling the love and respect you are portraying to a small group of this band on social media. I bit my lip and waited to even say anything about this because it wasn’t anyones business and I considered you were maybe going through something in your personal life. While I’m still grateful for taking time out of your life to help us I hope you find other ways to deal with your incompetence in the future."

What Are People Saying About Escuela Grind?

A lot of people are discussing the drama surrounding Escuela Grind on social media, with some commenting on the band's Instagram posts and others taking to Reddit and X (formerly Twitter) to share their sentiments.

"The Escuela Grind discourse is another example of a buncha people pretending to like a painfully sub-mid band that was never good because they had 'the right politics,' only to now say they were never good because of some controversy. This is my most undefeated take," one person wrote on X.

Others have apparently discovered that Fuentes is a freemason, with one person sharing a photo of his induction into the society back in 2016.

"Is it such a surprise that a dude who has stolen thousands of dollars from acts such as Goolagoon, Mellow Harsher, Sick/Tired, and dozens more; churned and burned guitarists who didn't want to be corporate entities in music; hurled 'F----t' and 'N----r' at folks and in conversation only to defend himself with, 'I'm a a tex-mex queer. It's okay.' isn't a great person?" they wrote in the caption.

READ MORE: Bands Who Sound Nothing Like Their First Album

"Anyways — I've sat on this photo for 6+ years. Here's Jesse with Escuela's financial investors at Jesse's Free Mason induction ceremony."

Escuela Grind's Former Tour Manager Chris Cotter Responds to Allegations

On March 5, Loudwire received a statement from Cotter through his attorney regarding the allegations made against him. Read it in full below.

I have recently become aware of allegations made against me by Destiny Hopper, known as @nosenachos on Instagram, who worked as a driver for the band Escuela during a tour that I managed.

It deeply pains me to see her experience recounted in such a distressing manner. I want to address these allegations with transparency and sincerity.

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that I recognized the toxic dynamics within the band Escuela almost immediately. This awareness made it very difficult to recognize Destiny's distress, especially considering the mutual confiding in each other of our frustrations about the way we were both being treated. To me, it felt as if we leaned on each other, mutually accepting the situation as undesirable, but neither of us wanted to disrupt the tour.

I want to provide context regarding Destiny Hopper's public comments regarding our relationship during the tour. After she was removed from the driver's role, she referred to me as an "advocate, friend, and copilot," expressing gratitude for my support even when she didn't ask for it. Given this response, I never thought that anything I did or said, or that any interactions between the two of us, were inappropriate. These are her words, and I have text messages to demonstrate these assertions should anyone wish to see them.

It's very distressing to me that she perceived my interactions at any point as predatory, and I take this very seriously. It hurts me to hear that someone I cared about, shared great and wonderful moments with, and actively advocated on behalf of, could be so hurt. I do always attempt to be mindful of my role as a male in interactions with those of other genders. At one point, just moments prior to her being fired, she advocated for me in a profound way. I was so frustrated and upset with how I was being treated at this point and felt like dissociating, my mental state was starting to become compromised with exhaustion and stress. Destiny recognized that I needed help and texted the band these exact words:

“We’re about to head back to the venue from the U-Haul place. There’s nothing we can do about the trailer for tonight. Also, Chris had advocated for me at times when I was too emotionally exhausted to speak for myself, so I’m advocating for him right now, he needs a mental break. He’s completely fried. He's going to lay down in the bunk until it’s time for him to get up, and his presence is absolutely necessary.”

This was ultimately what got her fired, this was the last straw for the band. After this outburst of care and compassion for me, the band let her go with the intention of leaving her to find her own way home, thousands of miles away from Florida. If it wasn’t for Bongniator, she would have been completely stranded with no way home and no place to stay. The band even went as far as canceling her flight, so that she couldn't have rescheduled it to get home. I did not approve of any of these actions, but was clearly powerless to stop them.

In addition to the dynamics observed during the tour, direct communication from Destiny herself further underscores her openness to addressing any discomfort or issues within our relationship. A text message she sent to me after she was let go reads, "If it wasn’t working out or something makes you uncomfortable, just say it." This message not only highlights her proactive approach to resolving conflicts, but also suggests a mutual understanding of the importance of clear and transparent communication. That text was in line with the tenor of our relationship in general; I felt as if we had a very open line of communication, and did have boundaries that were mutually respected. I am disappointed to hear that Destiny felt I did not respect hers.

Regrettably, despite Destiny's explicit invitation for open dialogue, I failed to fully recognize the extent of her discomfort and distress. This oversight on my part is something I deeply regret and acknowledge as a failure to prioritize her well-being more. It is clear that Destiny felt trapped in a situation she found uncomfortable, and rightly so. I deeply regret that I failed to see the extent of her distress. I should have been more attentive to the complex nature of our relationship and the discomfort it caused, rather than just her needs and concerns. I was focused on keeping her from getting thrown out of the van on the side of the road, or left at a hotel without a room. There were many things being said in the van that made not only Destiny but myself uncomfortable.

To be blunt, the language and behavior occurring in the tour van and in the band group chat was lewd, and often sexually charged. All parties, myself and Destiny included, made many crude jokes, shared vulgar sexual memes, and openly discussed sexual topics. The only person to voice discomfort about this was me. In fact, everyone seemed to enjoy the bawdy humor, and participated. From reading Destiny’s post, it’s pretty clear this may not have been the case, and I want to formally apologize if anything I said fully in jest was perceived in a harassing or inappropriate manner. I own my role here; I participated in low brow humor, willingly, without being fully considerate of anyone else’s feelings. The atmosphere on tour seemed permissive to this, and if I misread anyone’s feelings, I am truly sorry.

However, I did voice my discomfort to the band with the excessive sexual humor at many points. One instance that stands out is when I asked the band in the green room at Reggie's in Chicago to refrain from making sexual jokes referring to me getting pegged, or using inappropriate nicknames, like "Creamy Chris." in front of others. Unfortunately, I was met with laughter from the band members and felt humiliated in this moment, making it clear that addressing such issues would be met with resistance in the toxic environment that already existed. I regret not pushing harder to address these concerns. These issues began much earlier on, and manifested into the band writing "creamy Chris” on the trailer as you can see in the attached photo.

It's worth noting that Destiny's preference for cash payment over electronic methods like Venmo or Zelle may have contributed to confusion regarding compensation during the tour. While the band stated they were willing to accommodate her preference, only after my insistence that anyone who did work for them be compensated, she clearly felt that they did not intend to pay her. It appears to me as well, that they did not intend to, and that their promises of mailing her cash at the end of tour may have been false.

I must also address the dynamic between Destiny and myself on one other level. Throughout the tour, I perceived mixed signals regarding her romantic interest in me. I do not blame her for this whatsoever; how I interpret things is fully my own fault. I did not feel as if I had a clear picture regarding her feelings towards me. At one point In El Paso I was so confused that I asked Destiny Hopper if there was anything going on between the two of us and she stated that “I love you platonically,” which was a very clear message at the time. It's unfortunate that this occurred so late in our time together, as she was let go just a few days later. All of our other interactions after this moment were definitely platonic. The second she set a clear boundary, I not only respected it, but appreciated the clarity it brought.

As Destiny departed the tour, she sent me numerous texts (of which I am happy to provide copies) thanking me for my role, and addressing me as if I were her friend and ally, essentially against the band. It is with great confusion that I read her statement, calling me predatory, as her words, directly to me, seem quite contradictory to that. I do not wish to reconcile the difference in her words to me and her statement. Her feelings are valid, whatever they are, as is my confusion due to the difference.

In conclusion, it is crucial that we address the problematic nature of the insular issues within the band and the toxic dynamics that were taking place, as well as the way the band's following has reacted to all of this. I truly do not believe that she had any intentions to do anyone any harm or cause any foul when she made that post, I don't know what her intentions were. I want to emphasize that my intention is not to undermine Destiny's credibility or invalidate her experiences. I recognize that the culture within the band Esculea was toxic and unprofessional, contributing to a hostile work environment that affected everyone involved. I recognize my part as well; that I did not use my voice to advocate for myself or anyone else, and that I contributed to this toxic environment by making inappropriate jokes. I failed to address the things that made me us uncomfortable, waited too long to seek clarification from her on the status of our relationship, was too focused on my perception of her needs and concerns, instead of the stress she was under, spoke with her in ways that may have made her feel uncomfortable at times and put her in a position where she felt she had to play along with me in order to get the outcome she needed to stay safe.

I am deeply regretful for all of this, and do not intend to contact Destiny ever again, but would certainly be receptive should she reach out to hold me accountable. Despite the accusations made against me, Esculea will continue to operate, which underscores the insular nature of the community surrounding the band, and the people that help them make it happen.

Clearly, I am no longer associated with Escuela by my own choosing, and wish nothing more than to not be associated with them in any way. I am responsible for my own actions, but the toxicity of the environment around them is purely their doing.

Sincerely, Chris Cotter

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Gallery Credit: Various

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