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Police investigating alleged racial bullying at Santa Monica High

African American student says teammates tied a noose around a brown wrestling dummy and then chained him to his locker. The students have been suspended and could face assault and hate-crime charges.

June 29, 2011|By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times

Santa Monica police are investigating an alleged racial incident at Santa Monica High School in which an African American student said fellow members of the wrestling team chained him to a locker and hung a noose around a brown wrestling dummy. He also told police that those teammates made racially charged remarks.

Although the incident allegedly happened more than a month ago, it was reported to the Santa Monica Police Department on June 21 by the student and his mother, Victoria Gray.

Sgt. Richard Lewis said that the students could face charges of assault and battery for allegedly restraining him, and that the racial nature of the encounter could constitute a hate crime.

Gray told The Times she was upset because she was never notified by the school and didn't find out about the incident until May 31, when she heard it from a parent she did not know.

According to an account given to authorities, the student walked into the school's wrestling room on May 4 and found a brown practice mannequin with a noose tied around its neck. He then went to the locker room to change and two students restrained him in a bear hug and used a cable and lock to chain his pants to a locker, according to the report. The students allegedly made racial remarks.

School officials said it was a "serious matter that warranted a swift and appropriate response," according to a June 16 email to parents from Principal Hugo A. Pedroza.

He said in the email that the students accused "were given appropriate disciplinary consequences, including suspension." The entire wrestling team also received sensitivity training and will give a workshop at freshman orientation on racial sensitivity, bullying and hazing.

rick.rojas@latimes.com

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