Staff and students safe after brief lockdown at Malibu Middle School

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Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Middle school field trip cut short after incident at Getty Villa 

Malibu Middle School students were shaken May 3 after a disturbing incident while on a field trip to the Getty Villa. The incident prompted a police escort back to campus where students were already secured in the gym for a brief lockdown. 

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District sent emails to parents stating an investigation determined that there is no credible threat currently to the school. Still, concerned parents are dealing with anxious children who experienced an “unsettling” situation, and the district has offered resources through the Boys & Girls Club and the National Association of School Psychologists website NASPonline.org for guidance on how to talk to children about threats and acts of violence.

The Malibu Times spoke with a student who was on the field trip and the student’s mother about what happened. TMT is not publishing the name of the student, who is a minor. 

The sixth-grader said while on a lunch break outside at the Getty Villa, a young man started shouting “that his friend had a gun or something. He said, ‘Don’t go to school. It’s gonna kill your brain.’” The man followed the group to the amphitheater where the student said, “he was kinda chasing us.” The man was carrying a black bag, which the students found disturbing. The 11-year-old said the man may have been “hallucinating” and added he appeared to verbally attack a security guard when confronted but not taken into custody. 

“They didn’t do anything,” the student said. “The cops came a long time after.”

The kids were scared, so they headed with their teachers straight to the bus. The student was dismayed that the group wasn’t boarded on the bus immediately. The mother agreed. Some students pounded on the door to get in according to the student. The suspect also briefly pounded on the bus and then ran away, according to the student’s account.

The mother got a text message from her child that scared her. It read, “Mom, we’re locked down on the bus. Kids are crying. Where are you? Come pick me up now.” 

At that point she still didn’t know exactly what happened. 

“One of the concerns I have as a mom is that the information (her child) received after locking down on the bus was only coming from other students,” she said. 

“They were texting back and forth. I believe the students locked down in the gym received texts from students on the bus. I didn’t hear until later that day. We got an email that there was a lockdown at school. They (SMMUSD) didn’t specify any details. It’s concerning to think something could happen to our kids and we wouldn’t have all the details, but it does make me feel better that my child has a phone.”

The mother continued that the bus driver told the children that they were not allowed to use their phones because then some parents would try to come and pick their children up, possibly causing confusion. 

“The kids weren’t supposed to call their parents while on lockdown on the school bus, but the teachers fortunately whispered to the kids it was okay to text their moms,” she said.

The school bus, full of students, got a police escort back to campus, where they joined other students locked down in the gym. The mother says she has heard from other students and their parents that the children were afraid with some in tears. 

“The kids in the gym had no idea why they were in lockdown,” she said. “They sat there waiting for someone to possibly come onto campus.” 

They were all finally allowed back to their seventh-period classes.

The district issued a statement saying: “The health and safety of our students and staff are our top priorities.” It also read that law enforcement “have assured us that there is no credible threat in this case and it is safe to attend school.

“The person of interest, a Malibu High School graduate, and his parents have been interviewed, and their home thoroughly searched. An investigation determined that the subject was concerned for the safety of students and perceived a threat, but had no plans to carry out any type of threat. The young man continues to be closely monitored as the investigation continues. We support the family’s interest in seeking necessary support and intervention for their young-adult family member.”

Patrick Miller, Malibu High School Principal, termed what occurred on campus “a soft lockdown, not a hard lockdown.” Miller said that “a total of three messages were sent to parents with information about the circumstances throughout the incident.” The principal also said students were “sheltered in place and instruction continued as a precaution because teachers on the trip expressed fear the subject” could follow them back to school.

As a precaution, extra security was on campus May 4 and 5.

The Malibu Times reached out to the Getty Villa for comment and has yet to receive a response by the time of press.

Article updated on May 9, at 7:47pm.