Over the last few months, Santa Monica High School has been frequently featured in this newspaper and unfortunately the majority of the articles have not been flattering.
In December the school community was on edge following a non-fatal attack in which a Samohi student was shot in the chest while walking in a neighborhood near campus.
In January a series of fights involving students from Samohi broke out, resulting in suspensions and an increased police presence near the campus. The fights seemed to have stemmed from an argument between a handful of students. Some say race or gang affiliation may have played a role.
Just a few days later, a fight broke out between Samohi basketball fans and supporters of Morningside High School following a tense and competitive game between the two.
And just this week firefighters responded to the school’s South Gym to extinguish what has been suspected to be an arson fire that damaged 10 lockers.
When examined separately, the events are disconcerting, but certainly not unusual for a high school of Samohi’s size, diversity and proximity to a major metropolitan area.
But when grouped together, they can be alarming, particularly for parents, whose lives revolve around their kids and want to do everything in their power to make sure they are protected when not at home. Parents have understandably been opinionated about the school district’s response to these incidents. Some have been supportive, while others have been critical.
In response to concerns about safety, the school district has hired police officers to provide security at basketball games for the remainder of the season, and City Hall is providing a crossing guard who has been trained to manage traffic flow at a problematic corner near the campus’ main entrance.
Samohi administrators are also bringing back a popular program promoting dialogue between racial groups following a year-long hiatus. And for the first time, the district is funding the Racial Harmony program.
Samohi’s new principal, Laurel Fretz, has been particularly proactive in notifying the school community when these situations have occurred, providing more details than have been issued in the past. The Daily Press often had trouble getting critical information from the previous principal, who seemed to shy away from his responsibility to keep the public informed.
The administration’s response is something the Daily Press has not seen in recent years and one that should be commended.
For the most part, parents have responded positively about the efforts, particularly the crossing guard. But there are some who want to continue to call into question the district’s actions. We say critical voices are needed to keep people honest and on their toes, but there comes a time when credit must be given.
The district is being more responsive, not just regarding these incidents at Samohi, but other concerns as well, including the lack of representation of Malibu on the Board of Education and the inequality that exists in fundraising at various school sites. It seems the district, while still more reactive than proactive, is listening to parents and providing solutions.
Now it is time for parents to look within and ask themselves the tough questions. What are we doing as parents to help? When is the last time we attended a PTA meeting? When is the last time we volunteered our time to help improve conditions on the campus?
Parents should take this time to not only engage administrators, but their children and fellow parents as well. Be engaged, find out what your kids are really up to, continue to provide guidance and common sense so that they can minimize their exposure to dangerous situations and those who are up to no good.
Responsibility should not fall solely on the shoulders of teachers and the administration. We all have a responsibility to mentor our youth. And that includes checking kids on the block who you see doing wrong, just like your parents’ neighbors did when you were caught acting a fool.
In the end, we all want our kids to be successful so that they hopefully return to our community as adults and reinvest in Santa Monica.