Malibu seeks to respond to Littleton


Parents, social service professionals and community activists met to come up with specific, action-oriented goals in an effort to prevent school violence. Temporarily named the “Malibu Youth Coalition” by its founder, education activist Laure Stern, the group of 20 gathered in a circle in the auditorium of Point Dume Elementary School June 10, trying to come to grips with the massacre in Littleton and the shooting at Palisades High.

“Just imagine if those kids had been at a Malibu school,” said Stephanie Gregory, director of youth and family programs of Jewish Family Service of Santa Monica, which co-supervises Malibu High School’s Mentor Program created by Stern’s son Henry in January. “Hopefully you can be there before a problem starts.”

Stern, who co-created “Celebration for Education,” a fund-raising drive for superior public education in Malibu, and who, last fall, fought for passage of Proposition X, the school board initiative which sent $11.3 million to upgrade Malibu public schools, said, “Malibu is such an independent community, we seldom get to talk about community issues. Colorado hit home; it showed this can happen anywhere. It’s about time this community woke up and realized that.”

A consistent theme since Littleton has been early intervention, not only with children who use drugs, but with children who don’t fit in at school, children who act out early, said Stern. Her motto for the group was a quotation from Abraham Lincoln: “A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. . . . So it might be well to pay him some attention.”

Marilyn Stern, a new recreation supervisor for the city of Malibu, said mentoring activities could be held at the teen center the city plans to open in the fall. The city is looking to place the center at newly acquired land in Las Flores Canyon, at a mobile facility at Malibu High School or on land in the Civic Center owned by Malibu Bay Company, she said.

Laure Stern also suggested hooking up with the business community. Beverly Hammond, Malibu Chamber of Commerce president, suggested offering internships, as it did through Falcon Cable. Kathy McTaggart, coordinator of school and community partnerships for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, emphasized the need for communication between the job developer and the children in order to make that program work. She also suggested a tie-in between the district’s October “Red Ribbon Week” and a Town Hall Meeting and/or student panel.

Laure Stern and Larry Gray, whose child attends Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, brought up the need for a local resource guide. It quickly became the top priority for the next meeting, slated for July 14. [See inset.] Other priorities include conflict resolution training for adult volunteers, and parent counseling. “You need to be open and willing to call out for help,” said Nan Gail, a parent of a Point Dume Marine Science School student. She also noted that parents need to be brought up to date on children’s developmental stages. “Confidentiality is a big issue,” added Gray. “You may not know what to do. You may be afraid to talk about the bad things your child has done.”

Next meeting of the Malibu Youth Coalition is scheduled for July 14, 3 p.m., Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, 6955 Fernhill Drive.