What started as an incident at a local youth flag football game has led to flaring tensions, allegations of racism and attempts by city and school officials to address community concerns.
An account provided by city officials, who investigated the matter, offers details into what they described as “unacceptable” behavior by a parent who verbally assaulted an opposing player.
The friction stemmed from an Oct. 3 game at Memorial Park in a city-sponsored league that features teams composed of students from different Santa Monica elementary schools.
The incident began when a Franklin Chargers player was injured during game play due to contact with an Edison Ravens player, city spokeswoman Debbie Lee said. The contact was later determined to be accidental.
“Flag football is still football,” she said. “It can be a very physical sport.”
The father of the Franklin player grew upset, came onto the field and used inappropriate language, including a racial slur. A referee asked the Franklin father to leave the game, but he refused, Lee said.
City officials received an email from the Edison player’s mother “expressing displeasure with how the situation went down,” Lee said. City staff also heard about the incident from other parents from both schools.
The Daily Press is not identifying the child who was verbally assaulted or his mother due to privacy concerns. The Daily Press is not identifying the Franklin parent because no charges were filed.
“Our staff did a thorough review, and there was no intended malice between the two boys,” Lee said. “It was an accident. It’s an extremely unfortunate accident.”
The incident happened in a league run through CREST, a city-backed program that provides recreational activities for local youths. The program’s flag football leagues are assembled so that kids who attend the same schools play with each other on the same teams.
Parents of participating players typically sign sportsmanship agreements. They are asked to respect all players, coaches and referees, and they are urged not to use profanity.
A parent’s disregard for the agreement could lead to a child being dismissed from the team, Lee said. The Franklin parent was reminded of the rules and given a warning, officials said.
“These CREST sports are geared towards having a good experience for the children,” Lee said. “We want children to participate regardless of ability. It’s about skill development, teamwork and respect for each other out on the field.”
Santa Monica-Malibu school district officials heard about the incident and notified their school resource officer, as well as Franklin principal Deanna Sinfield and Edison principal Lori Orum.
“Both Deanna and Lori are aware of the situation, take it very seriously, and are communicating with each other so that each is aware should any further issues arise,” Superintendent Sandra Lyon wrote in an Oct. 6 message to Board of Education members.
“We take these situations seriously and monitor them closely for the safety of all involved, and it is important to remember that this is not a normal occurrence, nor a reflection of the parents or students at either school.
“I appreciate all our staff, the city staff and the parent community has done to address this situation and to make sure our students can participate in extracurricular activities in a safe environment.”
League organizers are working to reinforce the importance of the sportsmanship agreement, officials said.
The Edison and Franklin flag football teams are slated to face each other in a rematch Nov. 21, according to the league schedule.