SAMOHI — A Los Angeles-based civil rights group filed a complaint with the Department of Justice Wednesday against a Santa Monica wrestling coach and two student athletes allegedly involved in a racial incident against a black student on the Santa Monica High School campus.
The civil rights complaint was filed by Najee Ali, the director of Project Islamic HOPE, with U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte’s Central District office.
According to a press release, the complaint alleges that Coach Mark Black in May walked in on an attack against a black juvenile allegedly perpetrated by two other “student wrestlers.” It also alleges that the two wrestlers taunted the victim with a noose.
Terrorizing an individual with a noose is a crime in California, punishable by a year in jail or up to a $5,000 fine.
The complaint goes further, stating that Black did not report either crime to the police.
“Instead, he helped plan and participated in the cover up of the racist hate crime against one of his students by encouraging those who had taken pictures of the noose to delete them,” Ali wrote in the press release.
Neither Black nor district officials would comment on the complaint.
A report filed with the Santa Monica Police Department by the victim alleges that the young man walked into the wrestling practice room past a wrestling dummy that was near a noose.
After he walked into the locker room to change, the young man was chained to a locker by two others, who then allegedly left the room calling out racial remarks and insults.
Another version of events, put forward by physical therapist and volunteer coach Robert Forster, claims that the wrestling dummy was hung under the arms with a “noose-like” knot, and that the chaining in the locker room was just a prank.
Whatever the case, parents of children on the wrestling team, including the mother of the victim of the alleged attack, have repeatedly expressed their support of Black and their confidence in him as a coach.
“I don’t blame Coach Black,” wrote Victoria Gray, the mother of the alleged victim, in an e-mail. “I blame the Santa Monica Unified School District for not instructing their staff on what to do when this sort of incident happens. Neither Coach Black nor his immediate supervisor knew what to do and the administration did not take charge.”