The legal hostilities over what to do about the PCBs on the Malibu High campus hopefully are over, now that a federal court in effect slapped the hands of all involved.
This includes the litigating parents and the school board, with an extra kick in the pants to the District to clean up the toxics on the Malibu High campus.
It was not a victory as all have claimed, certainly not for the reputations of the district and high school, nor, for that matter, Malibu’s, as a congenial community with safe public education facilities, as I comment on 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu.net and select websites everywhere.
Of course doing well, were the lawyers and consultants hired by the School District who opposed the parents, who originally gathered under the banner of Malibu Unites and now America Unites for Kids.
Sadly, I feel all could have been resolved from the outset years ago, when parents became rightfully concerned by reports that several teachers in classrooms with window caulked in material containing PCB had been diagnosed with cancer.
Not helping was a defensive School Board and a muddled District bureaucracy that never had been particularly sympathetic to Malibu’s concerns: spurning transparency they instead circled the wagons, and brought in the lawyers.
The District was never clear if all the PCBs would be removed, prompting the parents to become more concerned, and the District more guarded.
It became even more recalcitrant by the entry into the fray of a Washington DC whistleblower support group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
This happening in high profile Malibu involving a skittish school bureaucracy and a vainglorious parents group was like throwing in a raw piece of meat into the cage of the DC group. The cancer card was played up.
Though PCBs have been linked to cancer, whether there was or is a cancer cluster on the Malibu campus has not been proven. Many people have cancer for as many reasons, and identifying clusters is reported difficult, and unlikely to be caused by a single environmental factor or exposure.
Meanwhile, the District pursued a clean up program on the Malibu campus, following the so-called best management practices prescribed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
This nevertheless was questioned by the involved parents. Hence the lawsuit.
Enter the City Council, which with any leadership might have calmed the situation. But instead to curry favor, it awarded a token of public funds to the protesting parent group, in effect compromising the city’s efforts to divorce itself from the District. The city’s school advocates were chagrined,
But putting the cacophonic conflict in perspective, I feel there was oddly a winner: Malibu’s valiant efforts led by AMPS to diverse itself from the Santa Monica dominated school board.
And this in my opinion is big, and rises above the fray.
Say what you may about the parent group’s persistence and public rants, it did unquestionably light a fire under the negotiations between Santa Monica and Malibu, and appears to have prompted a settlement.
Hopefully in time what ill feelings might have been generated by the fracas will be mitigated, as will the PCBs; the schools repaired, and eventually, so will be Malibu’s reputation.