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CIF Panel Rejects Releaguing That Was Called Racist

May 28, 1987|PAUL McLEOD | Times Staff Writer

A CIF Southern Section appeals committee has rejected a releaguing proposal that covers the bulk of Southeast area public high schools. Opponents had criticized the proposal, saying it was racist.

In returning the proposal to principals of the 21 schools in Southeast Los Angeles County, the committee indicated that it could not approve the plan because of the animosity it had generated.

The principals were asked to resubmit a plan by June 19.

"Basically, they'll be starting from scratch," Southern Section administrator Dean Crowley predicted. The original plan was approved by an 11-10 vote in February. Sectionwide releaguing for athletic competition is scheduled to begin in the fall of 1988.

Plan Called for Four Leagues

At issue before the appeals committee was the so-called "Rozelle Plan," named for Douglas Rozelle, principal at Paramount High School, who jotted down the proposal one evening, then casually recommended it to his colleagues the next day. The Paramount Unified School District board later voted unanimously to oppose the plan, calling it discriminatory. Rozelle appeared before the appeals committee last week to denounce it.

The plan would have regrouped Southeast public high schools, which make up what the Southern Section calls the San Gabriel Valley releaguing area. The proposal called for the current three-league system to reorganize into four leagues. Under it, there would be three leagues with five high schools and one league with six schools competing against one another.

Opponents criticized the plan, saying it segregated minority schools. Critics also contended that five-team leagues present scheduling problems, particularly in football. In addition, there were complaints about a breach in procedure and deviation from state law when the panel ignored its written agenda to vote on the proposal.

Proponents denied that racism played any role in the decision and maintained that there was no violation of procedure or state law. They said the Rozelle plan provided a better competitive balance among area teams.

Racial Issue Center of Discussion

The two sides argued before the appeals committee last week for almost two hours. Most of the discussion was on the racial issue.

In allowing that discussion, the appeals committee ignored Southern Section criteria that prohibits making ethnicity a reason for appeal.

"Ethnicity is not a criteria," Cerritos High Principal Stanley Steddom said. "But I guess the feeling is that if the committee sees a problem there then they must deal with it."

Commissioner Stan Thomas of the CIF Southern Section called the committee's decision to hear an appeal based on ethnicity "a delicate issue."

Paramount school board member Bill Carpenter set the tone early when he said that the Rozelle plan exhibited "blatant segregation." Rozelle told the committee that he did not view the plan as racist when he proposed it, but after taking a closer look he had determined that he could not support it.

Other administrators speaking against the plan were from Bell Gardens, Dominguez, Lynwood and El Rancho high schools. The five schools were lumped together in an alignment they said segregated them into a predominantly "black-brown" league. Paramount has a mixture of black and Latino students, Dominguez and Lynwood have black majorities, and Bell Gardens and El Rancho are predominantly Latino.

Currently Paramount, Lynwood and Dominguez are in the San Gabriel Valley League with Gahr, Warren, Cerritos and Downey high schools. Bell Gardens and El Rancho are in the Whitmont League with Montebello, Santa Fe, Whittier, California and La Serna high schools.

Artesia, La Mirada, Mayfair, Bellflower, John Glenn and Norwalk high schools, which make up the Suburban League, are also involved in the releaguing proposal, but officials at those schools did not address the committee.

'The Wisest Thing'

Principal Michelle Lawrence of Whittier, a staunch supporter of the rejected plan and who chairs the San Gabriel releaguing committee, appeared conciliatory after the decision.

"In my mind, it was probably the wisest thing to do," she said of the decision. "If it had (been approved) no one wins. There still would have been very angry people and hard feelings. This way we have an opportunity to resolve our differences."

CIF Commissioner Thomas said the appeals committee felt it would be better to ask the schools to "determine their own destiny" than dictate a decision to them. Other principals agreed.

"We're hopeful the releaguing committee will take the lead of the Southern Section and come up with another proposal," said John Sherman of El Rancho High.

Call for Understanding

"I hope everyone is understanding of everyone else (next time)," Steddom said. "I hope that Lynwood, for example, would understand that not wanting to be in their league does not mean we are a racist school, but that we want to get in a league where we can compete in football."

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