Activist seeks to have Santa Monica High incident prosecuted as hate crime [Updated]
Civil rights activist Najee Ali said Wednesday that an alleged racial incident at Santa Monica High School last month involving an African American student and other members of the school’s wrestling team constituted a hate crime and is calling on authorities to prosecute it as such.
Ali, executive director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that the nature of the incident was “disturbing and chilling.”
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 and classmates also made racially charged remarks.
“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 accused students were given appropriate discipline, including suspensions. The Santa Monica Police Department is investigating.
The boy's mother, Veronica Gray, said she was angry that the school never told her about the incident.
[Updated: Santa Monica police said Wednesday that the portion of the investigation looking into the response by school officials would be handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Santa Monica police are continuing their investigation into the alleged assault and battery, as well as the alleged hate crime. The Sheriff’s Department will examine the response of officials with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
Police said the decision was made to avoid a conflict of interest. The Santa Monica Police Department has developed a close working relationship with school officials.]
-- Rick Rojas