Community vents teen violence concerns

A crowd of 400 filled last Thursday’s Town Hall meeting at Malibu High School to grapple with the impacts of a 300- 500-youth beach party that grew violent, a student who brought a loaded gun to the school and a bomb threat hoax made from a campus pay phone, all happening the first week of October.

School Governance Council Chair Jeff Jennings, who moderated the discussion, shared the stage with Principal Michael Matthews and introduced officials from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, City Council members Joan House and Harry Barovsky, and Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Members Pam Brady, Tom Pratt, Dorothy Chapman and Julia Brownley.

“There was no adult at the party,” said Lt. Thom Bradstock, Malibu’s liaison with the Lost Hills Station, referring to the large group at the beach that grew violent. “That is the thing I am concerned about as a parent and as a peace officer.”

Noting the importance of sports, music and arts, as well as the school’s Peer Mediation Program, Matthews said, “We have got to involve our students in school.”

Matthews also announced new measures for conflict resolution and campus safety.

  • “Council,” where a trained counselor and a teacher would meet with a group of 15 students once a week to provide “attentive listening and conflict resolution.” The program, which would lighten the load of two guidance counselors each responsible for 600 children, would cost $100,000.
  • A clerk to check in visitors and answer the phone, at a cost of $40,000 per year.
  • 60 parent volunteers to check in visitors two hours a week.
  • Gun/drug-sniffing dogs. Several of them would cost $4,000.

Other possible costs include, per year: an additional security guard, $40,000; an additional high school counselor, $60,000; three guidance “technicians,” $120,000; and full-time bilingual staffer, $20,000.

Councilman Barovsky, who, along with House, serves on the city’s Public Safety committee, noted the city funds the sheriff’s Juvenile Intervention Team, counseling service at the school and enhanced weekend beach patrols. The city is forming a youth commission that will include more than honor students, he said. “If the nonhonor students have problems, it may help them,” he said. “The city will work responsibly,” he pledged.

In response to Barovsky’s comments about parental responsibility, especially knowing where children are, Malibu High School senior Laurel Smylie said, “Parents are not talking to their kids enough. Talk to them about things you don’t want to hear. It means they feel they can trust you.”

Parent Francesca Alvarez, who spoke through a translator, asked for suggestions on what to do if she refused to allow her child to go to a party. Children have been known to threaten to report a parent for child abuse to get their way, she said.

Matthews responded, “A majority of kids believe everyone else is going. Never forget you are in charge and you are the boss.” Parents should call the J-Team so deputies can back them up, he suggested.

Another parent, Robin Baltrushes, noted the honors program causes anger and angst for those students not in the program. She suggested reaching out to make those students feel included. In a similar vein, parent Skylar Pete asked what motivation existed for children not planning to go to college. Matthews said, “I hear more and more that kids not in honors program feel left out. I will commit to making every student feel they are making the right choices.”

Douglas Simpson said more should be done to address boys’ insecurity. “Boys have a desperate need to feel capable of something, even if it means bringing a gun. The community has to identify these kids early on and give them the sense they are capable.”

Parent Barbara Mills addressed the issue of guns on campus. “Where did the student get the gun,” she said to applause. “How many of you have guns at home? Are they kept where your kids can’t get to them? I know this might be a politically incorrect thing to say, but most civilized countries don’t have guns available.”

Carey Peck and Guy Thomas, who have children at both schools, said more should be done to address fears at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School right across the street. Tallying up the nearly $400,000 in costs listed by Matthews, Thomas offered to write a check for $1,000. “I mean, this is Malibu,” he said looking at the audience. “You just can’t gamble with kids. Don’t ever let that happen again.”

Two resources will soon be available to parents. Parental Resource classes on Oct. 23, Nov. 20 and Dec. 18, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., sponsored by the sheriff’s Juvenile Intervention Team, will cover topics such as common juvenile problems, parental responsibilities, peer pressure, substance abuse and professional referrals. A meeting of the Malibu Youth Coalition is scheduled for Oct. 29 at the high school.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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