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Star Admits Using False Address to Play for S.M. High

August 18, 1985|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

One of the stars of the highly rated Santa Monica High School basketball team has admitted that he used a false address to attend the school, in violation of school district policy.

Keith Harris, a powerful 6-6 forward, told The Times on Tuesday that he used a Santa Monica apartment address to attend the high school last year, although he actually lived in Inglewood.

Principal Terry Pearson removed Harris from the high school on the last day of the summer session two weeks ago because he did not live in Santa Monica, the player said in a telephone interview. Harris said he was told not to return this fall for his senior year unless he has a valid Santa Monica address.

Pearson was on vacation this week, but his secretary confirmed that Harris was removed from school because he lived outside the district.

The admission could damage the Santa Monica team, considered one of the best in Southern California, and lead to forfeiture of all games that Harris played in last year.

George Caldwell, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, recently promised the Board of Education that the high school would forfeit all games in which players from outside the distirct took part.

He made the pledge two weeks ago, after some residents had questioned whether some members of the basketball team lived outside the district. Caldwell said Wednesday that he would have to verify Harris' admission before taking any action.

Harris averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds a game while playing in nearly every contest for the Vikings, who finished the season with a 21-5 record. The team was upset in the quarterfinals of the CIF 4-A playoffs.

Caldwell last week also presented to the Board of Education a report on the residency of the basketball players. It acknowledged that a player was removed from summer school because he did not have "a legitimate residence." Caldwell refused to confirm that the player was Harris.

In the report, Caldwell also said that he had been contacted by a parent who admitted that his son had played on the 1983-84 Santa Monica team by using an "illegal residence." Caldwell refused to reveal the name of the player but said that a "father with a guilty conscience came in off the street" to give him the information.

Caldwell said he asked Pearson to contact the president of the Bay League about the ineligible player "and request appropriate action be taken in this matter."

But Joseph Rotcher, president of the league, said schools should forfeit games on their own if they find an ineligible player.

"If that is what the league requires, then that is the recommendation that we will make," Caldwell said of forfeiting games. If enough games are forfeited, Santa Monica could also be stripped of the Bay League championship the team won in 1983-84, Rotcher said.

A California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) official said high schools are required to forfeit games in which ineligible players took part. Officials for both organizations said that they review cases involving ineligible players to make sure that the school forfeits the games in question.

Doubts about the validity of addresses of several Santa Monica players first surfaced this spring. As the CIF playoffs approached, attendance officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District investigated reports that four of Santa Monica's eight players actually lived in the Los Angeles district.

Santa Monica High School officials said they verified the eight players' addresses with home visits. All eight lived lived in Santa Monica, according to Principal Pearson.

But the residency of six Santa Monica players was questioned again this summer by John Lonsdale, assistant director of the Santa Monica Boys Club, and other residents. They demanded that the school district investigate and claimed that the majority of the Santa Monica team lived in Inglewood and Los Angeles, not Santa Monica.

School board president Connie Jenkins has recommended that an employee from outside the high school check the addresses of varsity athletes.

But other school board members have not supported the idea. And Caldwell said that he is satisfied with checks made by high school administrators. Caldwell also said he opposes investigating players who have graduated or gone on to other high schools.

Harris, who was expected to lead next year's team along with forward J. D. Green and guard Carrick Dehart, said he will try to move to Santa Monica so he can complete his schooling at Santa Monica High.

Harris, 16, said he lived with his mother on Euclid Street in Santa Monica when he attended 10th grade at the high school in 1983-84. But he moved to Inglewood at the end of that year and continued to live there while attending Santa Monica High this year. During that time he emerged as the basketball team's leading rebounder and second-highest scorer.

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