(photo by Kibiwot Limo)

SAMOHI — A fight and traffic-related safety concerns have prompted a response by administrators at Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials, including increased police presence at basketball games and a crossing guard.

School officials contracted with the Santa Monica Police Department to have four officers and a sergeant attend certain home and away games, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesperson for the SMPD.

The call for increased police presence at games stems from a fight that broke out after a double-header basketball game Friday, Jan. 20 between Morningside High School and Samohi.

According to officials, things got heated after Samohi players snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat, and both Morningside coaches were ejected from the game during the last minutes of play.

Fans from Morningside ignored directions from the security officers after the event and crossed over to confront Samohi fans. A fight lasting two to three minutes ensued, with Samohi fans getting kicked and pushed, according to school officials.

School officials will look at various factors before requesting additional police at games, including the amount of rivalry between the schools, knowledge of gang activity in the opponent school and whether or not there’s been a problem with the opposing team in the past, wrote Principal Laurel Fretz in an e-mail.

“For last week and this week, we are having the SMPD come to each basketball game. We have assigned extra security and administrative personnel to each game,” Fretz wrote.

That included Friday’s road game against Inglewood High School. Four police officers, three administrators and two security officers went to the game, Fretz wrote.

There were no problems reported.

The additional security does not come cheap, however.

School officials estimate that the police presence comes up to $1,200 per game, which buys four hours of police time at overtime rates. That’s one and a half times the officers’ hourly salary.

At this point, the district is shouldering the burden for the added police presence.

Samohi also requested and received a crossing guard to help ease safety concerns at a turn on Michigan Avenue and Seventh Street where crowds of students on foot vie with cars dropping youth off for school.

The issue was raised at a Parent Teacher Association meeting on Jan. 17.

Dennis Dunbar, the parent of a senior at Samohi, negotiates the crowded street regularly.

Although he’s pleased to see that the administration heeded calls for the crossing guard, Dunbar noted that to address the dangerous traffic problem, it might be necessary to have a person with the authority to guide traffic flows.

“If they have a crossing guard, they should think about facilitating traffic and pedestrian safety,” Dunbar said.

The district does not have to pay for the crossing guard.

It’s currently a temporary position while City Hall and the police department consider whether or not it’s feasible to pay for in the long term, Fretz wrote.

The most recent response is one of a set at Samohi, which has been struggling with gang-related violence on and off campus since December 2011.

On Dec. 6, a student was shot several times just blocks from the school for wearing clothes that resembled gang attire. In early January, an incident allegedly involving gang-affiliated youth launched a week of violence on campus and in nearby areas.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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