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Last Friday at Samohi: “It Was a Scary Day”: Two students tell what they heard and saw

A fight between a few students at Santa Monica High School last Friday quickly escalated into a melee in which several hundred students were involved.

A story on page one, which chronicles events from the initial scuffle on Friday to a meeting at the high school Monday night, includes extensive reports from Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials and the Santa Monica Police.

The Mirror also interviewed students who were on campus on Friday and witnessed events as they unfolded. Their comments follow. We know the students to be intelligent, sensible and trustworthy young people, but we have chosen not to identify them, in order to protect them from recriminations from any quarter.

Peggy Clifford


First Student’s Statement

It was a scary day…

At the beginning of the day, two small fights broke out during early morning break between a Hispanic “crew,” or gang, and a black “crew.” At lunchtime, these small fights culminated in a riot that was comprised of what I have heard was 200 people.

A lot of people gathered around the fight, which made it hard to break up… especially since it was more like a mob than just a fight. It started close to the Greek theater and then proceeded to the main quad, then to the senior parking lot.

Police were called onto campus. Some people said that police were borrowed from Beverly Hills and Culver City.

During lunch, Dr. Straus [Ilene Straus, Samohi principal] announced that students should immediately proceed to their 5th period class because lunch was ending early. I went to 5th period, along with a bunch of other students I saw running to class. I was the first one to my class.

I guess not many people could hear the announcement or take it seriously. Also, many people go off campus for lunch and so they didn’t know what was going on. Worst of all, there was an orchestra festival going on at the time of the whole lockdown — with elementary and middle school students to my knowledge.

Then Straus made another announcement that whoever didn’t go to 5th period would be arrested, so finally most of my class came in (a lot were absent due to college visits it was a seniors only class).

A lot of people didn’t know what was happening. All we could see was a bunch of police on campus…then, Straus announced that this was a lockdown and all the teachers should lock their rooms…. so we locked the door and were advised to stay away from doors or windows.

We were locked inside for three hours — from around 12:50 to 3:50. During that time, my class had a discussion about racial prejudice on campus, and discrimination.

Then the announcement came that we were to stay in our rooms until police or administrators came to escort us out and were not to open the doors. Our room was one of the last to get let out. Meanwhile. we sang songs about the lockdown while my teacher played his guitar.

When they finally opened the door we were all really happy, It was sooooooo stuffy in that room. Police lined up on either side, six or seven feet apart, making a kind of passageway all the way to the exit gate…From there, we were all told to go home immediately.

Dr. Straus went on the mike at the end of the day and announced that no one had been seriously hurt.

Earlier in the week, some students had told the administration about the racial tension on campus between the two gangs. But all the administration did was lock the bathrooms.

Friday was a scary day… but in the end, I think everyone was safe.

Second Student’s Statement

On Friday, at lunch, there was fighting between Latino and black students that lasted about 35 minutes in the Samohi science quad. The fighting began by the Business building. All together about 200 students were involved and hundreds more were watching.

In addition to the fighting, kids were standing on the picnic tables and a trashcan was thrown. Kids were being pushed down the stairwell by the Science building.

I heard police sirens. When the police arrived, they had clubs drawn in an effort to break up the fights and they handcuffed at least two students.

Samohi’s Principal, Ilene Straus, got on the school’s public address system and requested at least five or six times that students go to their fifth period classrooms. This meant that the lunch period was cut short by about 15 minutes.

While the students went to their fifth period classes, school administrators and counselors began securing the school’s exits so no one could enter or exit. In the fifth period class, the teacher locked the classroom door and windows and the blinds were also drawn. All sixth period classes were cancelled.

I remained in my fifth period class until the teacher got a call saying the class could be released to go home. During the fifth period lockdown, Straus explained the lockdown procedure on the PA system and the ban on cell phone use during school was lifted.

Students who had class in the Technology building were released first and those in the History building last. After being released, I noticed all the building’s doors were locked except the one I exited from.Earlier in the day, when I was going to my third period class, I saw a confrontation in the hall that was also between a Latino student and a black student and one of them had to be restrained by a friend from hitting the other.

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