CLASS ACTION SUIT FILED AGAINST CITY

In a virtually unprecedented move, Santa Monica attorney Stanley Epstein spoke briefly to the City Council Tuesday night before it went into closed session about item 1-C “Existing Litigation” brought by Epstein and his wife against the City and others for violating the California Vehicle Code laws regarding parking tickets.

Epstein’s tone was brisk; his message clear: he had tried since mid-February to resolve the case without resorting to litigation. He had met with City officials, sent countless letters and emails, but had been rebuffed at every turn, and left with no choice but filing a class action suit, which would cost the City a great deal of money in lawyers’ fees.

No action was taken on 1-C in the closed session.

Parking tickets are one of the petty annoyances of modern life. Nobody likes them, but, after some grumbling and grousing, most people pay them, and get on with their lives.

But when Epstein’s wife, Harriet Epstein, was given a ticket for parking in a space reserved exclusively for Euclid Park visitors between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., she contested it, as she didn’t believe she was in violation. Though she didn’t know it at the time, that was the genesis of the lawsuit.
.
Following California Vehicle Code (CVC), Section 40215, “Contesting Parking Violation Procedure,” Epstein wrote to the Parking Violations Bureau (PVB), stated the reasons that the citation was invalid and asked for its dismissal. Her letter reported that the officer had written “S.C.V.” on the ticket, but did not state what it meant. Further, Epstein parked at 2 p.m. and was issued the ticket at 2:05 p.m., but unless the officer followed her around for the next 55 minutes, which she didn’t, she had no way of knowing whether Mrs. Epstein had spent time in the park.

Her letter was reviewed by a Santa Monica Police Department Traffic Services Officer and sent on to the Parking Violations Bureau, a sub-contractor of ACS State and Local Solutions, a Xerox subsidiary that manages parking ticket paperwork and other administrative services for Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Culver City and West Hollywood (“Westside Cities”) and many other cities in this country and abroad.

A few days later, Epstein received a form letter (unsigned) from PVB that said simply, “the citation is valid,” thus violating CVC 40215, which states that the ”initial review notification” must “include a reason for the denial.”

Epstein and her husband, Stanley, an attorney, went to the Santa Monica Police Department headquarters to report that the PVB reply neither complied with CVC requirements nor stated the bases for the denial of
of Epstein’s claim.. They were told by an SMPD lieutenant that the “denial notification was appropriate,” though it gave no reason for the denial, but merely confirmed the citation’s alleged validity.

Still following the Vehicle Code rules, Mrs. Epstein paid the $64 fine and requested a hearing.

“Parking citation hearing examiner services” are provided by ACS and overseen by a division of the City Finance Department. Hearing examiner Sheri Ross has a two-year contract with the City to adjudicate
parking violation appeals. .

The Epsteins appeared before Ross, challenged the validity of the original citation, pointed out that the PVB notification failed to cite a reason for denying the complaint, as required by CVC 40215, and asked that the case be dismissed.

Ross said she would review the statute, analyze the arguments and make her decision. Two days later, another unsigned notification form arrived from PVB. Like the previous notification, it simply said, “the citation is valid.”

CVC statute 40215© (6) requires the examiner to provide the basis for his/her decision to the appellant: “The examiner’s decision following the administrative hearing may be personally delivered to the person by the examiner or sent by first-class mail, and, if the notice (citation) is not canceled, include a written reason for that denial.”

As unanswered questions and apparent violations of the California Vehicle Code accumulated, Stanley Epstein discussed them with both the Finance Department, which oversees the adjudication of citation appeals, and the City Attorney’s office, which is responsible for reviewing all documents, including notification letters sent to parking citation appellants.

He also talked with the regional director of operations for ACS/PVB who told him that the City was notified of changes in the California Vehicle Code that became effective on January1, 2009, but the City did not authorize ACS/PVB to change the notification letters.

Since the state’s Vehicle Code requires that motorists who appeal parking citations be informed of the bases for the City’s denial of such appeals, and Epstein was twice told that the citation was valid, but was not told why it was valid, or given “a written reason for the denial,” the City’s parking citation appeals process was in violation of the state’s Vehicle Code.

The Epsteins called for a full and impartial review to ascertain whether the City and its contractors are and/or have violated state statutes since January 1, 2009, asked that any investigation include the hearing examiner, who is a licensed California attorney, to ascertain whether ticketed motorists’ appeals followed the procedures prescribed by law, and further asked that all notices and procedures be brought into
into compliance with state statutes.
.
If appellants were improperly noticed, their appeals denied without explanation, original citations upheld simply because they were “valid,” and fines collected by the City, the Epsteins believed the tickets should be dismissed, and the fines and bail money, if any, refunded, as they were collected in violation of state statute. According to their estimates, the money the City has collected illegally could total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Don Patterson, the City’s Finance Department official who oversees ACS/PVB, said in an email to the Epsteins: “These concerns were reviewed with the City Attorney’s Office, and our current administrative hearing processes and notices meet the minimum requirements of applicable state law…We have been in the process of reviewing and updating various parking-related notices over the past several months … .”

On Monday, May 9, Epstein e-mailed the members of the City Council: “Today’s Bill Bauer column in the ‘Daily Press’ accurately details the actions by the city and ACS my wife and I encountered in contesting a parking citation. City staff will undoubtedly defend its procedures so that it can continue illegally to collect fines from the public. Based on what the City Attorney’s office told Don Patterson, here’s my analysis of why its opinion is totally wrong.
“STATEMENT by attorney Stanley H. Epstein
“The pathetic attempt by City lawyers (in an ‘opinion’ not one word of which has been provided to the public or media) is a bad faith effort to support their advice in 2008 which resulted in daily conduct by the City and its Processing Agency that violates California law and has cost motorists millions in fines that should not have been paid to Santa Monica.

“1. Language of Law: Section 40215 of the state’s Vehicle Code sets up a procedure for contesting parking citations. The motorist first communicates reason(s) why the citation should be dismissed. Under the amendments to the law effective 1/1/09, the City (through its Agent) must do one of two things: cancel the citation or if that’s denied ‘include a reason for that denial.’ This is called the ‘initial review.’ The motorist then can appeal to an independent hearing examiner and following that hearing, the new provision again allows only the same two options, specifically requiring the notice to ‘include a written reason for that denial.’ The City chose to continue sending two (form) notices, neither of which contains the necessary reason for denial of dismissal. They simply say that the citation is not invalidated, which is a conclusion, not a reason.

“2. Intent of Law: Lawyers and judges regularly seek to determine what was in the minds of legislators. Here that exercise is fatal to [City Attorney] Mr. Seltzer’s position. The statute contemplates that City expenditures will be reduced by not requiring a City employee (such as the citing officer) to attend or testify before the examiner or on any appeal to the court. Therefore the City’s position has to be clear in its documented responses to both of those bodies. Consequently, the statute specifically mandates a reason for a denial so the examiner and the judge can carefully evaluate that reason in the case through the documents and testimony by the motorist. Simply saying ‘the citation is valid,’ as the City does twice, gives the trier of fact no information as to what the City is saying in response to the particular claims of the motorist in each individual case. Makes total sense. Furthermore, the motorist is assisted in deciding whether to appeal when the City provides a specific reason countering her statements.

“In conclusion, the City Manager and Finance and Police Departments should have the courage now to discard the lawyers’ unsubstantiated ‘opinion’ which seeks to cover up their original mistake in 2008 and prevent motorists from being reimbursed. To quote from VC Section 40215: ‘The hearing shall provide an independent, objective, fair, and impartial review of contested parking violations.’ The City should guarantee no less.”

None of the Council members responded to Epstein’s statement.

The Epsteins both filed suit in Superior Court, as Mrs. Epstein received the Citation and Mr. Epstein owns the car. The suit asked that the City be required to abide by the state law and either respond to the Epsteins’ request that it state the bases for the citation or dismiss it, and refund her $64 payment.

But when the Epsteins’ research showed that an estimated 16,000 motorists had apparently received the same alleged illegal treatment, they withdrew their suit, and filed a class action suit, and asked for “a writ of mandate,” which would require the City abide by state law and settle with all the people who had been denied due process.
.
On May 30, the City issued a press release headlined “City Continues Implementation of Parking System Improvements”

The release said, “Santa Monica, California – The City of Santa Monica’s Finance and Police Departments have been working on a year-long effort to review and improve parking citation and permit systems.

“Recent resident inquiry and press attention has focused on notices to people who contest their parking citations during the appeal process. As a result, the City has reviewed the level of information provided in letters that are sent to the recipient notifying them of the decision. Although the letters provide the minimum information required by law, the City believes that providing additional details with these letters would improve customer service. The notifications sent by the City during the parking citation appeal process now reflect this additional information. The final stage of the appeal process, which is to the Superior Court, is not affected by this change in procedure. Any person who recently appealed a parking citation to the City, and would like additional details regarding why a citation was upheld during the appeal process, can e-mail their request with the citation number to parking.office@smgov.net, and they will receive a response within 10 business days.

“This is the latest in a series of customer service improvements that has occurred over the last year which includes revised parking permit renewals; the ability to renew parking permits online at www.smgov.net/parking; barcoding of permits to allow for efficient verification of permits in the field; and installation of credit-card enabled meters in the public lots along Main St.

“Future planned improvements include continued review of letters and notices to make them more customer-friendly; installation of on-street credit card enabled parking meters; and providing the ability for residents to print one day guest parking permits for preferential parking areas.”

The Epsteins disagree with the City’s assertion that the letters “provide the minimum information required by law,” noting that “the ticket is valid,” the City’s only response to both of the Epsteins’ requests for the bases of the citation, ignores both her request and the law.

A class action complaint asking for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief was filed by attorney Eric Benink in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 6. It alleges, among other things, that “In an effort to maximize revenue and reduce costs, respondents’ practice has been to provide form letters rather than provide individual explanations or reasons as required under law.”

As of the City Council meeting Tuesday night, the City has not responded.

CIVIC AUDITORIUM: ONCE AND FUTURE MASTERPIECE

The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was designated a City Landmark by the Landmarks Commission on November 12, 2001. The City Manager was directed by the Council to execute a presenting agreement with the Nederlander Organization to act as partner with the City once the Civic Auditorium improvements are completed on March 8 this year. The $46,800,000 renovation of the Civic was included in the FY2011-12 budget. This week, the City chose Morley Construction and Levin & Associates Architects to restore the Civic, which virtually insures a brilliant future for the shabby old landmark.

Brenda Levin specializes in historic building renovations, and nobody does it better. Among her triumphs are the restoration of the Wiltern theater, Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles City Hall.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, “Born in New Jersey, Levin lived on the East Coast until she was 30 and never expected to leave. After studying graphic design at Carnegie Mellon and earning her degree at New York University, she worked for a few years before returning to school to secure a graduate degree in architecture from Harvard.

“There she met her future husband, David Abel, who was determined to go west and convinced Levin there would be more opportunities there for women in male-dominated fields such as architecture. Her first job in California was working with prominent residential architect John Lautner on his design of a Palm Springs house for comedian Bob Hope….”

But her career took flight when she took a job with developer Wayne Ratkovich to renovate an old haberdashery and office building in downtown Los Angeles. Her stunning resurrection of the Oviatt Building, as the Times said, “brought acclaim to Ratkovich and Levin and helped launch a movement to bring the city’s best old buildings back to glory…

“ Levin calculates that she arrived on the scene at just the right time to ride atop a growing wave of interest in reviving the city’s historic structures. Levin continued to work with Ratkovich and another urban revival pioneer, Ira Yellin, as they restored such local treasures as the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Square, the Fine Arts Building and the Wiltern.

“’It was a moment in time that did afford me this extraordinary opportunity,’ Levin said.

“The concept of saving and upgrading old buildings was so new in Los Angeles that Levin and her developers set a precedent for urban redevelopment that became codified in the city’s adaptive-reuse ordinance of 1999 and the California Historical Building Code. She also credits Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore with helping cultivate the city’s interest in its old structures.

“Restoring and sometimes expanding buildings now considered old but great has given Levin the chance to see how other generations of architects thought.

“’When you are working on a project you are, in a sense, living within someone else’s skin,’ she said. ‘You get an extraordinary appreciation for detail and how buildings go together.’

“Levin said she endeavors to bring that attention to detail to her own designs. Among them are the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery at the Huntington Library in San Marino, the Johnson Student Center at Occidental College and the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, both in Los Angeles.

“… the historic Los Angeles building Levin most wants to work on is the Spanish-Mediterranean-style former Herald-Examiner newspaper headquarters downtown that was completed in 1914. She had agreed to design renovation plans earlier this decade, but the makeover was thwarted by a lawsuit and then the recession.

“Levin is eager to closely examine the methods of architect Julia Morgan, who designed the building and Hearst Castle for publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.

“Morgan, who designed hundreds of structures, including many institutions for women, has long been an inspiration to Levin.

“’I channel Julia Morgan, I really do,’ Levin said. ‘She was an amazing woman, well before her time.’”

Morgan,, of course, also designed the Marion Davies estate on the Santa Monica beach in the late 1920s. She sold it in the 1940s, the And it was demolished in the 1950s. Today, remnants of it have been incorporated in the Annenberg Community Beach House.

I met Levin when she was working with Ratkovich on the remaking of the Wiltern theater years ago, and was dazzled by the work she had done and was doing. Her ability to resurrect old buildings that have been neglected or maltreated or simply worn out, uncover their original beauty and grace and literally give them new lives while maintaining their original architectural integrity is extraordinary, and unique.

Based on Levin’s previous accomplishments, we can look forward to a brilliant and faithful rendition of the Civic and a future as storied as its past.

THE SANTA MONICA TREE WARS CONTINUE

The City talks about creating an urban forest, perhaps making the entire town an arboretum — while quietly tagging large numbers of trees for extinction. This time the target was palm trees. Residents reacted quickly.

1.THEY CIRCULATED A PETITION

HELP PRESERVE SANTA MONICA’S PALMS

Dear neighbors,
We recently learned, to our alarm, that the City of Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force is recommending a change that will adversely affect our neighborhood. The task force’s draft master plan recommends that palm trees on 18th Street be replaced with sycamores (platanus racemosa) and on 21st Street and Marguerita with Torrey Pines (Pinus torreyana). These changes would take place as the palms become diseased or die. Replacing palms with other, non-palm varieties would destroy the iconic and historic beauty of these streetscape allées, and would damage the values of our homes. These trees are almost 100 years old – they were planted when the original subdivision was laid out by King C. Gillette (the inventor of the Gillette razor blade) in 1912.
If you agree that it would be a travesty to destroy these beautiful and evocative streetscapes (not to mention the unsightly visual impact of having random sycamores or pines interspersed among the palms as they were slowly replaced), and if you believe that replacement trees should be palms as close as possible in look and feel to the originals, please fill in your name and sign the signature block below and return to Patricia Bauer at 502 20th Street before 9:00 am, this Saturday, June 25. We will deliver all petitions to the Task Force at their workshop this Saturday, June 25, at the Santa Monica Main Library at 10:30 am. Please plan on attending this meeting, if at all possible! And please also fill out this online survey at http://www.smgov.net/portals/urbanforest/ to let the city know that you want to PRESERVE SANTA MONICA’S PALM FOREST, and to REPLACE PALMS WITH PALMS.

2.THEY WROTE LETTERS TO THE CITY COUNCIL AND OTHERS
Dear Gentlemen and Gentlewomen,

We just read in a flyer about the City’s proposal for replacement trees on various streets in Santa Monica. First, we were surprised to hear of such a sensitive topic by way of a flyer from our neighbors, especially in a city that prides itself on open communication. I would think a topic of this magnitude and emotional significance to residents would warrant a letter sent to each affected resident, as we seem to get on most other matters of importance. Nonetheless, we now know of the impending changes that various city staff and committees have proposed, and I am appalled at insensitivity of the recommendations.

The Canary Island Date Palms on 18th and 21st Streets and on Marguerita Avenue between 17th and 26th are iconic to Southern California and provide a majestic and beautiful streetscape, alternating as they do with taller fan palms. The palm trees planted in Gillette Regent’s Square are also historic, dating back to the original subdivision of the area by King C. Gillette (inventor of the Gillette razor blade) in 1912. They should be preserved if at all possible, and when they die, they should be replaced by as close a replica a tree as possible to maintain the visual integrity of the streetscape.

I did some research online and found this description from May 4, 2011 in the Santa Monica Daily Press of the same situation with Canary Island Date palms being replaced with sycamores on Marguerita and Georgina avenues west of 14th Street. Here is an excerpt of the resolution they arrived at with residents in that area, with which we concur:

“The city was going to interplant our street trees, which are mostly Canary Island date palm trees with sycamores,” Bach said. “Many of us love sycamores, but we were shocked on two counts.” The first: That the plan had been implemented with no discussion, and the second that the sycamores were so wildly out of place with the existing trees.

In the information item, staff acknowledge that they should have discussed the matter with residents before deciding to go ahead with the planting.

Since, representatives of the two streets have met with city staff and found a more acceptable replacement tree for the street — the Chilean wine date palm.

City foresters have also helped develop a plan to take care of the still-healthy Canary Island date palms.

Here is a link to a website about Chilean Wine Date Palms. The tree appears to be a very appropriate replacement to the Canary Indian Date Palm, based on size, trunk, and palm span. http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1770/ , certainly more appropriate than the wildly disparate looking sycamore next to a majestic palm.

Also, I have scanned in a handout that was given to all 18th street residents in 1992 by the Treekeeper, City of Santa Monica, and M. T. Mahoney, Arborist, describing the Canary Island Date Palm and its characteristics, noting that there were about 1,750 such trees in the city – surely a defining characteristic of this City by the Sea.

I urge you on the City Council, the Public Landscape Division, and the City Planning Commission to reject this proposed replacement planting of sycamores on streets now graced by such beautiful and stately trees as the Canary Island Date Palm and the fan palm. Please let common aesthetic sense prevail!

Thanks for listening,

Russ and Barbara Whittenburg

3. THEY GOT COUNCILMAN KEVIN McKEOWN’S ATTENTION

Russ and Barbara, I’ll be making a motion tomorrow night for budget funding for exactly such a letter. I’ve attended a recent meeting of the city’s Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force, and immediately realized that the suggestions they plan to make are going to be very controversial and that the entire community needs to know what’s going on and be part of the decision-making. I realize that the trees on one’s street feel like a deeply personal matter even if they are technically “city” trees. I also have learned that the Canary Island Palms, in particular, are subject to a disease of which an epidemic is sweeping through the city. I grew up in New Haven, and know what Dutch Elm disease did to the iconic urban forest of what had been known as the “Elm City.” My high school yearbook was still called The Elm Tree, but there were none left on campus.

I can’t claim to know where this tree selection process will end, but I can promise you I’ll do everything I can to make it transparent and participatory.

Thanks,

Kevin

4. THE LAST WORD

Palm Tree

By Rabindranathe Tajore

Palm-tree: single-legged giant,
topping other trees,
peering at the firmament –
It longs to pierce the black cloud-ceiling
and fly away, away,
if only it had wings.

The tree seems to express its wish
in the tossing of its head:
its fronds heave and swish –
It thinks, Maybe my leaves are feathers,
and nothing stops me now
from rising on their flutter.

All day the fronds the windblown tree
soar and flap and shudder
as though it thinks it can fly,
As though it wanders in the skies,
travelling who knows where,
wheeling past the stars –

And then as soon as the wind dies down,
the fronds subside, subside:
the mind of the tree returns.
To earth, recalls that earth is its mother:
and then it likes once more
its earthly corner.

Fourth of July Parade Is Coming Up Fast

Santa Monica’s 5th Annual Fourth of July Parade on Main Street, presented by the Ocean Park Association, will roll Monday.

This year parade’s theme is “Fourth of July at the Beach” and the Grand Marshals are the LA County Fire Department Lifeguards, led by Captain Angus Alexander, a 31 year veteran of our local ocean lifeguards.

The parade starts at 9:30 am on Monday, July 4th on Main Street at Pico Boulevard and proceeds down Main Street to the Venice border.. There will be a party immediately following the parade in Heritage Square, located at 2612 Main Street at Ocean Park Boulevard, with live music, food trucks, and a lawn for picnics, hosted by The Heritage Museum and the Ocean Park Association.

Musical performers include the Santa Monica High School Band; Critical Brass, a Dixieland band; Russ Mullen and the Jazz Associates; and The Fu Dogs. And along with the lifeguards, the Santa Monica Mounted Police, a procession of classic low rider cars, the Santa Monica Fire Department, Assemblymember Julia Brownley, and former Santa Monica Mayors will join other school and community groups as marchers in the parade.

Inquiries should be directed to parade@opa-sm.org.

A NOOSE IN THE LOCKER ROOM

:
Racism Inside and Outside of the Santa Monica High School
by David J. Leonard

It was likely just another day for a Santa Monica High (CA) student when he headed to wrestling practice. Entering the locker room, things were anything but “normal.” A noose was inside the room nearby a wrestling practice dummy (the specifics are unclear based on current reporting). When an African American wrestler entered the room, he was then accosted by two teammates. According to a report from the Santa Monica Daily Press, “One grabbed him in what” was “described as a ‘bear hug,’ while the other slipped a lock through his belt loop and connected it to a nearby locker.” As they left the room, with the boy still attached to the locker, they shouted, “slave for sale.”

The noose, the reference to the boy as a “slave for sale” and the attack on the African American student did little to set off alarm bells from the school administration beyond damage control. According to the above newspaper account, they failed to notify the boy’s mother even while they contacted other parents connected to the wrestling team. Seemingly unconcerned about the impact of this attack on the boy, his family and the larger community of students of color at Santa Monica High School, their efforts appeared to be directed at helping (rather than punishing) and protecting the students who perpetrated these shameful acts. Some reported that at the request from school officials, pictures of the noose, for example, were erased from several student cell phones.

Disgusting, shameful, and yet another reminder of the illusion of a post-racial America, this instance is a telling reminder of the continuity of racism within twenty-first century America. The history of slavery, lynching, and racial violence stares us in the face. Yet, for some this instance tells us little about current racism. Despite the seriousness of the situation, it has received next to no media attention. In a city (Santa Monica and Los Angeles) where media has almost fixated on black-Latino tensions amongst students, it is revealing how small the media spotlight has been. Moreover, in wake of the tensions, communal problems, and the injustice directed at the Jena 6, it is troubling, to say the least, to see a school district take such a blaze approach to this hate crime (only after heightened pressure did the school district expand its response). Instead, there seems to be an attitude of confinement, an effort to isolate this incident as an aberration. Whether blaming it on athlete culture, male horseplay, or simply depicting the kids as “bad apples” who made a mistake, a portion of the reaction leaves one believing that this an isolated problem rather than symptomatic of a larger climate problem.

Tim Cuneo, the school’s outgoing superintendent, offered the predicable rhetoric about the school’s commitment “diversity” and promoting “a positive environment.” Yet, the rhetorical references to “horseplay,” “bullying,” and “harassment” with “racial overtones” leaves one wondering if the school does not have the historic understanding of racial violence – the historic meaning of the noose as an instrument of racialized terror. At the same time, the focus on the individual participants and the treatment of the incident as isolated erases the bigger issues here.

One has to look no further than the comment section on Santa Monica Daily Press report to understand the larger issues in place. In an effort to counteract the narrative that depicts Santa Monica as a racial utopia where a couple kids made poor decisions, comments continually reference the immense double standards in the treatment of students of color and white students, tracking, and the differential levels of privilege and power afforded to students. One post makes this clear

Now I’m not at all condoning what happened back in 2006, but it’s interesting to see the different reactions when the perpetrators are White and not another minority. The incident is swept under the rug and the students are let off with a slap on the wrist. Those two students should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. There is NO reason why they should still be allowed to attend SAMOHI classes. We, the Black and Latino community of Santa Monica, are used to this second class citizen treatment by the SMMUSD and the city. The school district, the police department, and the city tried their hardest to eliminate the one member of the school board that stands up for our interests and works tirelessly to prevent incidents such as this.

Another comment also speaks to the broader issues in play and the treatment of students of color as 2nd class citizens, especially in comparison to white students who reap privilege each and every day:

Let’s talk about what’s really going on at Samohi, how about the Cambridge 3, 3 white girls get caught drinking and the board re-writes the no tolerance rule for them and they are allowed to participate in all senior activities. If a white parent screams about a cell phone that’s been taken by a teacher 4 times because their child talks or text message in class the phone is given back no consequence. We get it rules only apply to students of color.

These powerful comments speak not only to the anger about this particular hate crime, but the systemic racism within the Santa Monica School District. A 2010 report from the Santa Monica Daily Press found that “minority students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District continued to account for a disproportionate percentage of suspensions.” For example, at John Adams Middle School African Americans constituted 11 percent of the study body, but accounted for 25 percent of suspensions; Latinos were 52 percent of the school’s population yet 64 percent of those suspended. Compare these numbers of whites, who represented 34 percent of school’s student body, but only 11 percent of those suspended. Oscar de la Torre, a member of the School Board, described the report as evidence of the continued relevance of institutional racism. It shows yet again how “race and ethnicity are factors in the degree of punishment and also the degree of consequences for the same infractions.”

The noose, and the attack on this student are two more examples of the persistence of institutional racism. Likewise, the inequality in terms of access to advanced placement classes is another example of the persistence of racism at a structural level. A 2007 report from the Santa Monica Daily Press highlighted disparities between black and Latino students and white students in both enrollment and proficiency in advanced placement courses. As such, the horrific treatment of this student is not only a symptom of a larger issue at the high school, in the District, and within the community, but an outgrowth of a culture that empowers white students all while treating students of color as second-class citizens.

While some have argued that this should have been a teachable for the students involved, teaching should never come at the expense of the others. It can be a moment of clarity, where we see the broader problems here and throughout the country. Santa Monica High is not alone here as all of these issues are national problems. Teaching Tolerance found that each and every year, 1:4 students reported falling victim to racial or ethnic mistreatment; same study found that 70% of female students have experienced sexual harassment with 75% of gay students reporting anti-gay slurs and treatment.

Racial bias and discrimination is equally evident in the application of suspension policies. A study of New York schools found that while black children represent one-third of students, they account for over 50% of those suspended. “A national survey of high school students found that the number of students reporting the presence of security guards and/r police officers in schools increased from 54 percent in 1999 to 70 percent in 2003” (Sullivan 2007, p. 7). According to a study by the Applied Research Center (Oakland, California), black students have disproportionately endured the impact of zero tolerance policies. The study “reported higher than expected rates of suspension and expulsion for black students in all 15 major American cities studied” (Skiba 2000, p. 12). Even though white youth are more likely have used cocaine (7 times), heroin (7 times) and methamphetamine (6 times); even though white youth ages 12-17 are more likely to have sold drugs; even though white students are far more likely to whites to bring a weapon to school; blacks students face the daily repercussion in the suspension-schooling complex (Wise 2000).

In thinking about the varied treatment experienced by today’s students — to suspend or not (eventually the two boys were suspended in this case); to call the police or not (only after the boy filed a complaint did the police begin an investigation ); to treat an incident as a “teachable moment” or a moment of incarceration; or the ability to walk into a locker room without being subjected to racism – we see a school and a school district with two sets of rules, one for its white students and another for those treated each and every day as second-class citizens. What happened on May 4 was yet another example. It is no wonder that Jeannie Oakes, in Racial & Ethnic Data in Schooling, identified Santa Monica High School as a place of “two schools,” one where college is likely, where advanced placement courses are commonplace, and where respect is a given to those white in attendance; the other is the school that houses black and brown youth. Unfortunately, when these two “schools” collided on this very day, the power and privilege of the one school once again illustrated the second-class citizenship that defines the other school.
***
David J. Leonard is Associate Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He has written on sport, video games, film, and social movements, appearing in both popular and academic mediums. His work explores the political economy of popular culture, examining the interplay between racism, state violence, and popular representations through contextual, textual, and subtextual analysis. He is the author of Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema and the forthcoming After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop (SUNY Press). Leonard blogs @ No Tsuris
Posted by MAN at 2:40 PM