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Sheriff's Department joins probe of alleged racial incident at Santa Monica High School


The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will examine how Santa Monica school officials responded to an alleged racial incident at Santa Monica High School.

The Santa Monica Police Department will continue its investigation of the alleged incident itself, which officials say involved an African American student and other members of the school's wrestling team.

Police said they turned over the portion of the probe dealing with the school's response to the Sheriff's Department to avoid a conflict of interest. The Santa Monica Police Department has developed a close working relationship with school officials.

Civil rights activist Najee Ali said Wednesday that the alleged incident last month amounts to a hate crime and is calling on authorities to prosecute it as such.

According to the student's account given to authorities, the boy walked into the wrestling room at the school on May 4 to see a brown wrestling mannequin with a noose around its neck. He was then restrained by two boys who chained his pants to a locker. Classmates also made racially charged remarks, the student said.

Ali, executive director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that the nature of the alleged incident was "disturbing and chilling."

"This wasn't just a prank," Ali said. "This was a hate crime, and it needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Santa Monica High Principal Hugo A. Pedroza said in an email to parents earlier this month that the accused students were given appropriate discipline, including suspensions.

The boy's mother, Veronica Gray, said she was angry that the school never told her about the alleged incident.


Black student chained to locker, finds noose around dummy

Activist seeks to have Santa Monica High incident prosecuted as hate crime

-- Rick Rojas

Photo: Students arrive Thursday for a summer school session at Santa Monica High School. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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