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Santa Monica District Rejects Punishment for False Student Addresses

January 19, 1986|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education has rejected a policy that would have punished students who use false addresses to attend school in the district.

The action apparently ends school board consideration of new policies regarding students who live outside of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and attend Santa Monica schools. The issue was raised last summer when it was disclosed that at least two Santa Monica High School basketball players lived outside the district.

The board turned down a policy that would have excluded students from sports and some other extracurricular activities for one year if they used false addresses to enter the district, were discovered, and then enrolled legally.

The board voted 6 to 1 to order Supt. George Caldwell to discontinue study of the policy, which he proposed last year.

Most board members said the proposed policy was unfair because it only applied to some extracurricular activities and did not affect students who did not participate in them.

Board member Connie Jenkins cast the lone vote for the policy. Jenkins said she was "deeply disturbed that no one here seems to be addressing what the problem is. We are talking about 12-year-old children being recruited to play athletics.

"The message that we are giving to students is that cheating and bending the rules is all right if you can get away with it," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said after the meeting that boosters and parents all over the country recruit athletes for high school teams. "I haven't heard of anyone out recruiting students for ceramics or Algebra 2 or other classes," she said.

"I am particularly concerned that something be done to remove the incentive for adults who are involved in this," she said. "If they are worried that the student may be out (for a year) then they are not going to get their goal, which is a winning team."

The highly rated Santa Monica High School basketball team in September forfeited all 47 of its victories and two Bay League championships for the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons after it was revealed that at least one player on each team lived outside the school district, in violation of the state education code.

At the time, the board approved hiring a private investigator to help school principals verify student addresses. It put off a vote on a policy to punish students who faked addresses.

A star from last year's team, Keith Harris, has returned to play this season despite the fact that he admitted that he lived in Inglewood last year. Harris has a valid Santa Monica address this year, school officials said.

Caldwell's policy would have punished those in grades 9 to 12 who used false addresses to attend Santa Monica High and the district's three junior highs.

The policy would have affected each school differently. At the high school, students would have been been barred from the athletic teams and student government.

At John Adams and Lincoln Junior High schools, students would have been barred from athletics, the math team and the madrigal singing group. They also would have been barred from student government at John Adams. At Malibu Park, they would have been barred from athletics and the math team.

Caldwell said, however, that students could not be kept out of activities for which they received a grade.

Thus, Malibu Park Junior High School students could not be barred from the madrigal group because it is a graded activity. Likewise, some student governments are graded, others are not.

Several Santa Monica High School students told the board Monday that the proposal was inconsistent and unfair. And 15 department heads from the school signed a petition opposing it.

Linda Anderson, chairman of the Santa Monica High music department, said the policy would not affect students who attended the high school illegally for academic reasons. She said students seeking a better education have used false addresses to attend district schools, but would not have been punished unless they played sports or took part in one of the other specified activities.

Jenkins said the policy was not perfect, but was "better than doing nothing."

Dick Willis, a Santa Monica resident who addressed the board, suggested formation of a committee to assess the place of sports in the public schools.

"I think what's wrong is that the (teams) are looked on to lead to a college scholarship or even to a professional career," he said. "It is seen in terms of dollars. That immediately distorts what the game is all about--if a kid 14 is already thinking about what is in it for him financially."

"I want them (the board) to put a group together and see if this is the direction that we want a student athletic program to go and to ask why we have these programs," Willis said.

Willis said he believes that players are recruited for most high schools with successful athletic teams.

"It seems like nobody wants to take the leadership and say 'Yeah, this is a problem and something should be done.' "

School board members did not act on Willis' proposal.

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