A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation has found no evidence of any wrongdoing by school district personnel in regards to a racial incident involving members of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team earlier this year.
According to police reports, the incident occurred in early May when an African-American student was locked to a locker through his belt loop by wrestling teammates and some racist comments were allegedly made. The boy also reportedly saw a brown wrestling dummy with a noose around the neck area in the practice room.
The boy’s mother has said she was not notified by the district and learned about the event weeks later from another parent.
The Santa Monica Police Department initiated a criminal investigation of a possible hate crime after the victim’s family filed a report in June. Police Chief Tim Jackman additionally requested in July that the Sheriff’s Department conduct a separate investigation of allegations that Santa Monica High School staff members intimidated students involved and destroyed evidence.
The sheriff’s investigation was called to avoid any appearance of a potential conflict of interest, as the school district receives city funding in exchange for use of district facilities.
After a thorough inquiry, the sheriff’s probe determined there was no probable cause to believe that any staff member or employee of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District participated in any activity, or acted in such a manner, that supports an allegation of criminal misconduct, police Sgt. Richard Lewis said.
The investigation involved interviews, review of the crime report, written declarations, and photographic images, Lewis said.
“We’re glad that the Sheriff’s Department investigation found what we believed to be true: that there was no wrongdoing on the part of our employees,” school district Superintendent Sandra Lyon said of the inquiry.
She noted that the district has initiated a third-party investigation, as per the direction of the Board of Education in June, to examine whether the existing policies, practices and procedures were followed immediately following the incident and if any future changes should be made.
Results of the third-party investigation will be made public upon its completion.
The hate crime allegations involving the students were thoroughly investigated by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Santa Monica Police Department, Lewis said. The case was presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration on Sept. 20, and is presently under review, he said.