Najee Ali, the head of Project Islamic Hope, took a Greyhound bus from Crenshaw to Palmdale on Monday to hold a small but fiery news conference on the steps of the Palmdale School District headquarters.
Ali is pressuring school officials to expel a white student involved in a middle school fistfight Nov. 19 that led to a black student’s death.
The white student has been suspended but not expelled, and school officials said they are awaiting conclusions from a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department investigation before taking further action.
Ali, who also is the spokesman for the family of the dead boy, said he had no connection to Palmdale before the deadly fight. “But my business takes me to wherever there’s injustice,” he said.
Some residents, like Rick Norris, a Palmdale businessman who ran for mayor this month and lost, said Ali’s group is trying to make a racial issue out of a schoolyard tragedy that wasn’t racially motivated.
“It’s just like Jesse Jackson going to that school in Illinois,” Norris said, referring to the recent protest over seven black students getting expelled for fighting at a high school in Decatur.
“Nobody around here thinks that fight was over race. These groups are trying to tie what happened at the school with the hate crimes that have occurred in this community.”
Ali said he was contacted by the family of Stephan Corson last week after 13-year-old Stephan died in a fistfight with another eighth-grader at Juniper Intermediate School in Palmdale.
After a scuffle inside a classroom, the other boy socked Stephan in the face on the schoolyard, knocking him to the ground and sending him into convulsions, witnesses said. Authorities said Stephan, a star baseball player with many friends, may have died after his head struck the pavement.
Sheriff’s detectives have questioned the other boy, whom authorities have not identified. Ali and Corson’s family are urging authorities to press involuntary manslaughter charges against the boy.