In a plea to parents, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati asked them and the community to “be critical thinkers” in relation to the rumors spread following two incidents involving Malibu High School.
Drati addressed the events during the Oct. 3 SMMUSD Board of Education meeting, held in Malibu, during his report to the board.
On Sept. 23, a man allegedly threatened a security guard at the MHS campus, which was reported by the guard to the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
A public social media post from the sheriff’s station claimed, “At that time, there was no statement made regarding any threat to the school.”
Three days later, the guard was reinterviewed by detectives, who determined the man’s threats were criminal in nature. The man’s vehicle was located on Oct. 2, though it remained unclear whether the suspect was found as of press time on Oct. 8.
On Sept. 26, the sheriff’s station received a tip about a student “who had a list containing student names on it” while riding the bus.
“Deputies spoke with the student, parent of the student and school officials,” spokespeople for the sheriff’s station shared online. “During the interview, deputies determined there was no threat made to the named students or the school.”
Despite the no threat determination, an arrest was made last Wednesday, Oct. 2, in relation to the student and their list.
Malibu/Lost Hills Lt. Greg Minster said to KBUU News he could not release the type of charge suggested by detectives, because the arrested person is a juvenile.
“When a matter is handled by the juvenile court, under state law we cannot release any information,” Minster told KBUU News.
The school district—including MHS Principal Patrick Miller—met with parents on Oct. 1 to discuss the situations and the students’ safety.
At the board meeting, Drati criticized social media’s role in fueling the rumors.
“Social media can be helpful, [but] also very dangerous and distracting,” he said, comparing the platforms to “yelling, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded auditorium.”
He went on to say the “game plan” the district created with local authorities and the City of Malibu to deal with escalating situations was successful.
“The problem that we ran across was trying to resolve anxiety that was occuring because of false information that was out there,” Drati explained. “I mean, there [were] some messages saying somehow ISIS was involved in the situation.
“Yeah, we had to address that,” he quipped to the board.
As for the reasoning for not releasing the name of the student as well as the charges in the arrest, he asked parents to respect the privacy of the student and the family, and to think of their own children.
“Every parent out there: At some point, somewhere, you’re going to run into a situation where your child makes a wrong decision or something like that, and you don’t want the district blasting their information—[their] face—all over the community.”
Drati then brought up conversations made at board meetings earlier in the year regarding security. Starting in the new year, perimeter cameras are set to roll out at Santa Monica-Malibu school campuses. The district also has plans to “incorporate fencing” and for Malibu schools, install a more robust check-in system.
The investigations into the two incidents are still ongoing, as far as The Malibu Times is aware—a call made to the sheriff’s station was not returned prior to press time on Tuesday. The school district and the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station maintain the two are unrelated.