Problems in paradise


What’s happening here? A series of incidents during the last two weeks point to potentially violent situations in our schools and on our beaches.

Around 11:30 p.m. Oct.1, 200 to 300 youths from Malibu and Santa Monica-area high schools gathered at Little Dume Beach to continue a party from the week before. The only way the kids could have gotten there is by invitation, for only homeowners have keys. Known as Malibu Riviera for the quiet, private, beautiful beach, it is an area where several generations of youths have congregated, some say for sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and fights.

Somehow, something got out of hand that Friday night. Lost Hills Sheriffs Station deputies say a “group” or “crew” (not a gang) of 10 kids got into a fight. There were four victims, six “subjects” (not suspects) and three witnesses. One Santa Monica High School student was kicked in the head and body repeatedly while he was on the ground. Deputies received the 911 assault call, and the boy was airlifted out. He was treated for his wounds and perhaps a concussion but was released the next day. The two main subjects could face felony charges, said Sgt. Cally Barrier, who, along with Lt. Thom Bradstock, serves as Malibu’s liaison with the station.

That same evening on a different beach, a 14-year-old Malibu High School student got into a fight with a Malibu boy. He allegedly hit him over the head with a roll of pennies, said Michael Matthews, Malibu High School principal. The student, who came from Northern California last May and who lives with a sibling guardian, had already been suspended for fighting, Matthews said.

On the following Tuesday, the MHS student brought a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson — what Barrier describes as a “typical police back-up weapon” — to school during first period. Saying he was afraid of retaliation from the Friday night fight and telling other students not to “tell,” the student said he brought the gun to show off, according to Det. Chris Germann.

Columbine High School-inspired sensitivity paid off. A student reported the gun to a teacher, and, by 9 a.m., both the boy, who reportedly hid the gun at the home of a friend nearby, and the gun were in the custody of sheriff deputies. The youth was taken to Sylmar Juvenile Hall and arraigned last Thursday on felony charges of possession of firearms in public schools and terrorist threats. According to deputies, he could be incarcerated in county or state youth facilities for years.

Last Thursday, Matthews made a presentation to the school district’s Board of Education meeting at John Webster Elementary School. Not only did he recount the story of the boy bringing the gun to the 1,100-student campus, he reported a bomb scare that very morning. School officials believe a student used a campus phone to say that a bomb was on the grounds. Again, quick response brought deputies to the scene. Matthews offered a $100 reward for information, and by the next morning, parents had offered to chip in another $400.

Several meetings with students and staff, the PTSA and Associated Student Body officers, and a town hall evening meeting were scheduled for early this week, to be mediated by MHS Governance Committee Chair Jeff Jennings. Another meeting that day, about campus security, was to take place between the school, city and sheriff deputies, deputies said.

That same board meeting revealed fissures in perception of the incidents by parents and the school board. Parents took offense to remarks by board president Margaret Quinones.

On Saturday at the Michael Landon Center in Bluffs Park, 65 people, many bringing their children, attended the city’s second community workshop on creating a Parks Master Plan. For years, they have lobbied the city for ballfields, youth programs and a teen center. Former Malibu Little League president Heather Beck summed it up: “This community should give kids every opportunity of things to do so there won’t be a repeat of what happened at Malibu High School.”

For an opportunity to express your concerns, come to a discussion titled, “Building Safe Communities in the 21st Century: Leaving Guns, Violence and Intolerance Behind,” Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Malibu School, Winter Canyon Road across from Webster School. Panelists include L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, Malibu High School Assistant Principal Esther Winkleman, Radio Talk Show Host Mr. KABC and family therapist Kris Smiley. For information call 310.456.7375.