For Immediate Release:
Contact America Unites for Kids: 310-436-6000
Thursday, December 17, 2015
PARENTS VINDICATED FROM DISTRICT’S FALSE CLAIMS:
District Attorney Determines No Crime in Sampling Toxic Caulk
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s latest attempt to intimidate their critics and suppress evidence of widespread PCB contamination at Malibu schools failed when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office rejected SMMUSD’s criminal complaint against parents who allegedly took small samples of building materials to test for toxic chemicals to protect their children.
A November 25, 2015 letter from L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated the office has formally declined to file charges. A follow-up email from the D.A.’s office clarified that no evidence of vandalism had been found on the campus of either Juan Cabrillo Elementary School or Malibu High (Malibu Schools). The D.A.’s email recognized that taking samples was merely “attempting to determine how many PCBs were in the molding” and not an intent to destroy. The email also stated the extent of damage did not appear to meet the required $400 threshold for a felony charge, directly conflicting with the district’s claims of tens of thousands of dollars in damages.
“Despite the district’s best attempt to cause harm to me and the organization, truth and justice prevailed,” said Jennifer deNicola, President of America Unites for Kids, who was named in the investigation. “The district’s actions were malicious from the start as they knew that no vandalism had occurred. For ten days before contacting the police, Lyon, Lieberman, Maez and the Pillsbury lawyers orchestrated a legal strategy to attempt to suppress new evidence of PCB contamination from the Federal Court. These 31 new tests prove the district is in clear violation of Federal law and more importantly putting kids at risk. This latest act by the district –knowingly filing a false police report to put innocent people in jail– in addition to the $7 million they have spent remind us all how far they are willing to go to continue to hide the widespread PCB contamination from parents and teachers.”
On October 28th, 2015, district officials filed a complaint to the Lost Hills Sheriff Department that parents had committed trespassing and vandalism when allegedly taking samples of 62-year old caulking—samples the size of toothpicks–presumed and then confirmed to contain toxic PCBs in violation of Federal law. Based on documents recently filed in Federal court, the district waited to report this purported crime of vandalism for ten days and only after the district’s law firm, Pillsbury, interviewed teachers themselves, a practice that can influence a witness. The District initially reported “damages” in the amount of $1500, but then continued to press the Sherriff and steadily increased the amount to more than $100,000, raising this issue into the category of a serious felony, yet the Los Angeles District Attorney’s email stated they could not substantiate even $400.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are a Class I carcinogen used in school building materials between 1950 and 1979 and initially found at the Malibu Schools in 2009. They were banned by Congress in 1976 because of their substantial risk to human health. Since 2004, 180 Countries have ratified the Stockholm Convention to eliminate PCBs from use. PCBs have been associated with a long list of human ailments and are especially harmful to children, including cancer, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, autism, lower IQ and disruption of the neurological, endocrine, reproductive and immune systems. MHS and JCES together have reports of six teachers with thyroid cancer and 25 teachers with thyroid disease.
In March 2015, America Unites for Kids and PEER filed legal action against SMMUSD for violation of the Toxic Substance Control Act which requires all building materials with PCBs in excess of 50 parts per million to be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste. Last month, America Unites provided U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) with 31 more PCB results from Malibu schools showing violations of Federal law. Trial is set for May 17, 2016.
America Unites for Kids is a 501c(3) non-profit dedicated to protecting the health of children. The non-profit is advised by experts, university scientists and policy makers with specific expertise in PCBs. The issue of dangerous and illegal levels of PCBs in public schools has become the nonprofit’s centerpiece issue rising out of its own struggle getting PCBs removed from its local schools.
“This latest action by the school district and their corporate lawyers aims to intimidate parents on a national level and silence concerns that their own kids might be sitting in toxic classrooms. But like the story of David and Goliath, Goliath has failed,” said deNicola. “Parents who seek the truth to protect their children should never be threatened or intimidated by a school district. The reality is everyday there are millions of children and teachers unknowingly sitting in PCB-contaminated classrooms who also need to be protected. We hope to bring awareness to parents so they can actively protect their kids from these cancer-causing chemicals that Congress deemed so harmful, they completely banned them 40 years ago.”