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Malibu students relocated amid health concerns

October 08, 2013|By Matt Stevens
  • Kenan Jiang, 22, of Malibu, kicks a soccer ball while running at the Malibu High School track. Some classrooms inside a building on the adjacent middle school campus are being relocated because of concerns over possible toxins.
Kenan Jiang, 22, of Malibu, kicks a soccer ball while running at the Malibu… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Students in 11 middle school classrooms on the Malibu High School campus will be relocated to classrooms at the high school and a nearby elementary school after parents and teachers voiced concerns about potential contaminants in a building.

The decision to relocate the Malibu Middle School students comes after teachers banded together to inform the district that several staff members working in the same set of buildings had recently been diagnosed with health problems.

Malibu Middle School shares campus space with Malibu High School. Staff and students from some of the affected classrooms will be moved to nearby Juan Cabrillo Elementary School as well.

Malibu parent Seth Jacobson said he raised the issue for the first time publicly last week at a Board of Education meeting. A letter to district personnel the next day asserted that three teachers had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer within the last six months, while other teachers  complained that they suffered from persistent migraine headaches and other health issues.

The letter requested that tests for mold, radioactive material and other contaminants, such as PCBs, be conducted in the affected buildings.

Parents and community members then formed a coalition and sent a letter to the district Monday, demanding students in the classrooms be relocated, a town-hall forum be held and a liaison be appointed. Jacobson said the district met all three demands.

“We are pleased with the actions of the administration, but we realize we need to keep their feet to the fire,” Jacobson said.

At a packed public meeting Tuesday afternoon, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Superintendent Sandra Lyon faced questions from parents about the district’s level of transparency.

Lyon said she became aware of teachers’ health concerns days before Jacobson raised the issue, and during Tuesday’s meeting, she apologized for “a lack of communication and a fear created in the community.”

Lyon told The Times preliminary test results indicated mold was discovered in one patch of carpet due to a leaking refrigerator, but otherwise the main building in question was deemed clear.

She said parents and community members seemed more concerned about possible PCBs on the campus.  

Lyon added that the district had retained a firm that will plan how to conduct further tests. She added that the district is working with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to conduct a health survey for staff members and provide informational meetings.

“We hear your concerns, we want to make good evidence-based decisions,” she said, “and so we want to retain experts to make sure we’ve given the community information that this is a safe site.”  


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