Juliana D. Norwood | 7/6/2011, 6:15 p.m.
Santa Monica police issued this statement Tuesday regarding the alleged racial bullying incident that occurred at Santa Monica High School:
"During the course of this ongoing investigation, officers were informed of allegations that school administrators had handled the incident unlawfully. Due to the close relationship between city and school district administration, the police department has referred the allegations of misconduct by school administrators to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for investigation."
Although the Santa Monica Police said they turned the case over to sheriff's detectives to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the transfer did not signify that police or school administrators did anything wrong.
The school wrestling coach came forward at a recent board meeting stating that he was aware of the alleged bullying situation, and that the public has the facts wrong. The coach maintained that the incident involving the dummy with the noose around its neck and the chaining of the Black student to the locker were two unrelated incidences.
Secondly, he said that the dummy was not intentionally hanged in a way that was supposed to depict a person being hanged by a noose, and that the chaining of the African American student was a prank that was not racially motivated and is frequently done for fun by athletes in the locker room.
The controversy first came to light last week when it was revealed that a Black Santa Monica High School student said his wrestling teammates chained him to a locker and hung a noose around the neck of a brown wrestling dummy.
The student told police that the teammates had made racially charged statements during the encounter, which occurred more than a month ago but was reported to police on June 21 by the student and his mother, Victoria Gray.
The accused students, who are White, could face assault and battery charges for allegedly restraining the student, Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department said. Racial undertones revolving around the incident could make it a hate crime, Lewis said.
The accused students were suspended and sensitivity training was conducted for the entire wrestling team. Team leaders will give a workshop at freshman orientation on racial sensitivity, bullying and hazing.
Najee Ali director of Project Islamic HOPE, has filed a federal civil rights complaint with U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Andre Birotte, regarding the incident.
Portions of this story were taking from a City News Service report.