Potential violence at Malibu High dominates school board meeting

Tempers flared last Thursday about a perceived callous reaction of the school board to a report of back-to-back, potentially violent incidents at Malibu High School.

As Malibu High School principal Michael Matthews prefaced his report with the statement, “It’s been a miserable week in Malibu,” board president Margaret Quinones laughingly said, “It seems every time we come out to Malibu, something bad is happening.” That remark, and her comment after the report that these were not isolated incidents in the district, caused sharp retorts from parents Bob Katz and Denise Peak.

A boy brought a gun to school Tuesday and there was a bomb scare Thursday, Matthews told the Board of Education of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District meeting in Malibu.

The youth who allegedly told other students, “Don’t tell,” was scheduled to be in court Tuesday on charges of possession of firearms on campus and terrorist threats. Matthews said he will recommend the youth be expelled from all schools in the district.

“Certainly it is a scary time, a coming of age,” Matthews said. “We have not experienced it before.”

Authorities believe the call to 911 about a bomb in the school came from a student using a campus phone, Matthews continued. The Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department responded right away, and students and staff are helping with the investigation.

“We are not as concerned about the bomb call, but there is a mood of high anxiety, certainly some fear.” Matthews said. “Some people have requested a metal detector, but with a 40-acre campus it wouldn’t work.”

Matthews announced an assembly for students early in the week, a daytime meeting of the PTSA governance council and an evening town hall meeting Tuesday.

“I am outraged by the board’s attitude about what happened at Malibu High School,” said Katz after Matthews’ presentation. “It is not a laughing matter.

“What will you do to beef up security?” Katz continued. “This 40-acre campus has 1,100 students. How come there are only two security guards? Who cares whether it is an isolated incident?”

“I am deeply traumatized by the gun,” Denise Peak told the board. “This is a trying time, a wake-up call. Just because the boy was caught doesn’t mean the situation is over. We need to address our fears.

“I know money is not enough,” Peak continued. “We need people detectors too in order to guard 1,200 students. We need more of an adult presence on campus.”

Board members were quick to respond.

Quinones said her remarks were not meant to be flippant. “I meant no disrespect,” she said. “I live in Santa Monica where there are many Chicanos. I have lost two members of my family to violence. We live with it on a daily basis. It will be addressed.”

Board member Pam Brady said the board should get notices of the Malibu High meetings. Board member Dorothy Chapman suggested that a “special therapeutic time for students” could be set aside when the board has a Special Education Workshop Oct. 28.

Malibu High School’s troubles completely overshadowed two items of good news announced by superintendent Neil Schmidt before Matthews’ report: a $20,000 grant for athletic directors and the appointment of Malibu High School parent Wendy Carey to the district’s new Financial Advisory Committee. The $20,000 grant was in addition to one of $15,000 per school, Schmidt said.

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

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