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Malibu School District Wants Parents Charged For Stealing Caulk

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The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District asked the Sheriff's department to look into some alleged caulk thieves who took samples from classrooms to have them tested for carcinogens. Parent Jennifer deNicola was one parent who said she went to Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School in 2014 to gather samples of the caulk to test for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), City News Service reports. This was a common ingredient used in the installation of glass windows in the '60s, but the chemical was later determined to be dangerous.

A district spokeswoman said the school reported the caulk gathering incident as a possible case of trespassing, and L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Matthew Dunn said that they have launched a felony investigation into the school's reports of trespassing and vandalism. If the Sheriff's department determines these crimes occurred, it will be up to the D.A.'s office to decide if there will be charges.

Malibu students and parents have been worried that their school has been making them sick for some time now, first from mold and more recently, via old caulking suspected to contain cancer-causing chemicals after three teachers reported that they had developed thyroid cancer. Others said they had issues with hair loss, headaches, rashes and other thyroid problems. Parents have gone back and forth with the district as to whether the school contains dangerous levels of the contaminant or not, and model Cindy Crawford even offered at one point to pay for testing to ensure the carcinogens had been removed.

The school itself tested for PCBs after the three teachers fell ill, but the district and the parents are at odds about the results. The tests results the parents received from their own tests showed significantly higher levels of PCBs than those reported by the district. Three lawsuits have been brought against the district in regards to the PCB levels. SMMUSD filed to dismiss a suit filed in March by America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility—of which deNicola is president—but that request was denied by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson in June, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports. The parents have accused the district of tampering with testing results by airing the classrooms out and wiping down surfaces beforehand.

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School board members Oscar de la Torre and Craig Foster want the case against the parents dropped. Foster said that the parents didn't damage the school and did find PCBs "above the EPA threshold levels in rooms we have been told were fully remediated" in an email to Superintendent Sandra Lyons.

DeNicola has said that the district has spent "more money avoiding a cleanup than full cleanup would ever cost," and regards this case as a "bullying" tactic from the district's lawyers.

In March of 2014, EPA senior policy analyst Hugh Kaufman told LA Weekly that he believes the district was to blame for the parental outrage and distrust.

"They've spent half a million dollars dodging and covering up. We still don't know what the problem is, or what the magnitude of the problem is, because the school district refuses to do what they have to do to find out."

Pursuing criminal case against these parents is most likely not going to improve already tenuous relations.

Scientists, on the other hand, have said that it's very unlikely that the thyroid cancer, which is often hereditary and relatively common, was caused by PCBs. The EPA does state, however, that there may be some thyroid issues with exposure to PCBs. Marcia Brose, director of the Thyroid Cancer Therapeutics Program at the University of Pennsylvania, told LA Weekly that, "Unless there's really clear radiation risks in the area, I don't think that there's any evidence for thinking that their thyroid cancer is caused by an environmental toxin, particularly."