LOS ANGELES — Dorsey High School will try to put the past behind it starting tonight, when it plays its first home game since rival football powerhouse Banning High School refused to play at Dorsey Nov. 1, citing fears of gang violence in the Southwest Los Angeles neighborhood.
School officials have implemented an assortment of security measures at Jackie Robinson Stadium to ensure that its first-round playoff game with Westchester High School unfolds without incident.
As many as 30 uniformed city and school district police officers will be on duty.
"Safety is our top priority," said Dorsey Principal Jerelene D. Wells. "And there are always concerns after the kind of negative publicity we have had. . . . We want to make sure it is not a self-fulfilling prophecy."
But three weeks after the Banning forfeit, people at Dorsey--administrators, teachers, students and parents--are still smarting from what they regard as a smear on their community.
Many contend that the underlying problem in the dispute with Banning has less to do with the safety of the neighborhood than with the bitterness that has permeated the rivalry between the two schools.
Both sides are still angry from the 1990 football game, which Banning won on a disputed referee's call in the final minutes, and which was followed by a melee.
School district athletic officials reprimanded the Dorsey team and suspended four players, but Banning's coaches and parents felt the punishment should have been more severe.
District officials made several attempts to get representatives from both schools together to talk and try to ease tensions, but with little results.
Then came the shootings. Three students were wounded in two separate shootings near Dorsey--including one during an afternoon game against Crenshaw High School.
To a group of Banning parents, the incidents confirmed their fears that the Dorsey neighborhood was unsafe. And no assurances of adequate security from school district officials, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and others would sway them.