Black Santa Monica High Student Says Wrestling Teammates Hung Noose, Chained Him to Locker, Shouted 'Slave for Sale!'
Updated after the jump: The L.A. County Sheriff is now investigating administrators who knew about the hate crime and didn't report it to police -- technically breaking the law.
Looks like there's still some unabashed racism in paradise: The Los Angeles Times was just recently notified of a disgusting locker-room incident at the prestigious Santa Monica High School, better known as Samohi, though it occurred back in the beginning of May.
A black student on the wrestling team told authorities that, upon entering the wrestling practice area on May 4, he found a noose tied around the neck of one of the team's practice dummies -- the brown one. That's when things went from insensitive to scary:
He then went to the locker room to change and two students restrained him in a bear hug and used a cable and lock to chain his pants to a locker, according to the report. The students allegedly made racial remarks.
These racial remarks, according to Santa Monica's LookOut News, included the two boys shouting "Slave for sale!"
The student didn't immediately report the incident, reports LookOut, because he was told by administrators that the wrestling program might get cancelled if word got out -- and he "didn't want to jeopardize the wrestling program." The pigs who had jumped him were merely suspended for a spell (three days of freedom!) and given sensitivity training.
Principal Hugo Pedroza
UCLA Bruins Men's Soccer vs. Oregon State Beavers Men's Soccer
TicketsSun., Oct. 2, 3:00pm
Anaheim Ducks v. Los Angeles Kings
TicketsSun., Oct. 2, 5:00pm
NBA Preseason Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
TicketsTue., Oct. 4, 7:00pm
Premium Level - NBA Preseason Basketball: Lakers v Sacramento Kings
TicketsTue., Oct. 4, 7:00pm
In an e-mail to parents, Samohi Principal Hugo Pedroza euphemistically called the attack "an incident with racial overtones." Cell phone photos of the dummy were reportedly destroyed by school officials.
[Update: A Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman tells us that the racial makeup of the school is 7 percent Asian, 34 percent Latino, 11 percent black and 46 percent white.]
Victoria Gray, the student's mother, didn't find out what happened until May 31. After becoming frustrated that the school's administration was keeping the attack so hush-hush, she finally went to the local police department on June 21. Now, Sergeant Richard Lewis tells the Times that the student's assailants "could face charges of assault and battery for allegedly restraining him" in what "might be classified as a hate crime."
Might? Wow. (Also, can we stop with the "African-American" thing already? It's rude.)
Update, June 29, 5:45 p.m.: Here are the administrators who were involved in the aftermath of the locker-room attack, aside from Principal Pedroza:
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Tim Cuneo. The black student's mother told press that Cuneo "wouldn't give her a copy of the full incident report, citing privacy concerns for the students involved." He refuses to speak with the Weekly about what happened, repeating only, "Now that it's under an investigation, I have nothing more to say."
Wrestling coach, Mark Black, who came in and broke up the mini mob. He arranged sensitivity training and counseling for involved parties, but never reported the blatant hate crime (let's just call it what it is) to police.
Leslie Wells, the principal of H House at Samohi (there are six "houses" on campus). According to Gray, the principal told her son that if he spoke up, he could get the whole wrestling program canceled. However, Wells tells the Weekly he is "unable to comment."
Whether or not they meant to do harm, all adults involved were breaking the law by not reporting the noose to police. From the Santa Monica Daily Press:
The SMMUSD has serious problems with this latest incident. Terrorizing people with a noose is a criminal offense (California Penal Code, Section 11411) and must be reported. Police were never called by district officials although they had collected student cell phones and deleted photos of the incident, according to news reports. Meanwhile, the two instigators were suspended for just three days each.
Not reporting the crime aside, destroying photos (or evidence) could be viewed as obstruction of justice and lead to criminal prosecution. And, the district could also face litigation for failing to protect the civil rights of its students.
Update: Sergeant Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department told us yesterday evening that officers were "looking into who knew about [the attack] and didn't tell."
He says that the department was notified on June 21 of the May 5 crime, and immediately began investigating.
"During that investigation, some information came to light that there may have been some mishandling of the incident by schol administrators," he says. Because "if nothing was reported [to police], that could be a crime in and of itself."
So now, the investigation has been split into two parts: Santa Monica police will look into the locker-room incident itself, in which Lewis says there are two suspects and "several witnesses... several of them being minors," while the L.A. County Sheriff's Department helms the probe into Samohi admin.
"Here at the [police] department, we have a close working relationship with the school district," explains Lewis. "So we don't want to appear to be biased."
We've contacted the Sheriff's Department for comment.
Originally posted June 29 at 9:15 a.m.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.