Dorsey High School students, stung by rival Banning High’s forfeiture of a crucial football game in the wake of two shootings near the Southwest Los Angeles campus, defended their school and said reports of violence have been blown out of proportion.
“It’s not us doing the shooting, it’s people outside,” Bobby Jetter, a wide receiver on Dorsey’s football team, said Wednesday. “The reporters come and film us when there’s a shooting. But they don’t film when kids are in class doing their work. Or when the teachers are staying late at night. They don’t show that.
“This is giving us a bad name,” he said, “but we’re not a bad school.”
Jetter was one of several Dorsey students who said they were disappointed that Banning High School in Wilmington had forfeited a scheduled Friday game against Dorsey out of fear of potential violence.
The decision followed the apparently gang-related shooting Monday morning of a 16-year-old Dorsey student as he stood near the school’s athletic field on Rodeo Road. Earlier this month, gunfire erupted during the final minutes of a game played on Dorsey’s home field in Jackie Robinson Stadium, leaving two students wounded. The stadium is located down the street from the high school. The shooting prompted Banning’s coach to say last week that his team would not play Friday’s game unless the game site was changed.
The shootings near Dorsey and other local high schools have prompted a tightening of security at games throughout the county. Recently, spectators have been searched before being allowed into the stands, and police presence at games has been increased.
Deborah Johnson, a psychiatric social worker with the Los Angeles School District’s mental health division, said that for some, a feeling of sadness is inescapable when football rivalries are played against a backdrop of body searches and police patrols.
“Until recently, schools, churches and hospitals were safe zones, but no more,” Johnson said. “It’s bad enough to have to worry about what happens on the way to school let alone fear for your life at a football game, a tradition as American as apple pie.”
For Friday’s contest between Banning and Dorsey, school district officials had moved up game time from 8 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. and had promised to have nine police cars patrolling the area during the event.
Hal Harkness, athletic director for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he is sure that the game would have been safe. On Wednesday, he called Banning’s decision “irrational” and “unfair” to players and fans on both sides.
“You have communities throwing stones at each other when all the kids want to do is play football,” Harkness said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, adding his voice to the controversy, said at a press conference Wednesday that “if Banning High School does not play Dorsey Friday, the school should be banned from playing any football games for the rest of the year.”
Banning, he added, “has nothing to fear by playing Dorsey except losing.”
The forfeiture cancels a game that was to be a showdown between two of the top teams in the county and may jeopardize Banning’s chances of winning the league championship.
The game was equally important to Dorsey, according to students. They contend that their team was unfairly penalized and cheated out of a playoff victory against Banning last season. Dorsey lost, 21 to 20.
Some Dorsey team members and fans were so upset by the loss that they poured onto the field and confronted Banning’s players and fans. Some Dorsey players were suspended in connection with the incident.
“There’s always something holding us back,” said Shaun Sloan, a defensive back on Dorsey’s team. “Last year, it was the officials. This year, it’s (the forfeiture). But in spite of it all, we’re going to meet our goals and that’s to win the all-city championship.”
“It hurts,” he said, noting that high school football is a ticket to college scholarships for many young people. “It hurts . . . because it’s taking away our opportunity to succeed.”