Two members of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team have been referred to take part in a juvenile arbitration program following a review by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office of an alleged racial discrimination incident.
The Santa Monica Police Department announced Dec. 6 that the district attorney’s office has decided to refer the case to its Juvenile Offender Intervention Network (JOIN) as a prefiling referral. No charges are pending in connection with the case.
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 said she was not notified by the district and learned about the event weeks later from another parent.
The district attorney’s JOIN program provides an arbitration process to deal with juvenile offenses. To participate in the program, parents and youths agree to the terms of a JOIN contract, in which juvenile offenders acknowledge responsibility for their acts. The youths also agree to pay restitution, maintain good school attendance and perform community service.
Under the program, parents agree to attend parenting classes, all families are referred to group counseling, and the cases are closely monitored for one year. If the minor reoffends or fails to adhere to the contract, the original case is referred for prosecution.
According to the district attorney’s office, JOIN is a highly effective program that aims to address the root causes of delinquent behavior and offers intense supervision and monitoring of the participants. In a three-year study, less than 5 percent of youths who participated reoffended, the district attorney’s office said.
The county Sheriff’s Department conducted a separate investigation of allegations that Santa Monica High staff members intimidated the students involved in the incident and destroyed evidence. That probe determined there was no probable cause to believe that any staff member or employee of the school district participated in any activity that supports an allegation of criminal misconduct.