MALIBU—Both parties in the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) lawsuit against the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, May 17 for a brief trial.
Gail Pinsker, Community and Public Relations Officer of SMMUSD, issued a follow up statement regarding the hearing, which elucidated on the proceedings of the trial.
The Court determined that the testimonies of the two plaintiffs that were originally slated to testify as witnesses, District Board Members Oscar de la Torre and Craig Foster, were not relevant to the Court’s assessment of the case and held that no live testimony would be heard.
The Court questioned whether Plaintiff Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) had proper standing to be involved in the lawsuit – the matter was taken under submission and post-trial papers will be filed by both parties in June.
The PCB dispute between the parents of Malibu High and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has been ongoing since November 2013, when the teacher’s of the district launched several complaints regarding a school-wide contamination that was allegedly causing teachers to have health problems.
Later in November 2013, an environmental testing update released by SMMUSD’s Environmental Task Force found “a very small number” of areas at Santa Monica High School that contained levels of PCBs exceeding regulatory limits, but the EPA stated that these findings posed “no acute health risk” – the school consequently conducted site remediation and reported in January 2015 that the campus was tested, cleaned, and re-tested.
Teachers were dissatisfied with the findings, and refused to return to their classrooms, expressing frustration with the district’s lack of efficiency and honesty in their efforts to clear campus of PCB.
Parents of students from Juan Cabrillo Elementary and Malibu High School were unconvinced by the district’s results and in October 2015, trespassed on schools grounds, and using a box cutter, removed building materials from classrooms to collect window caulk and pay to have their own tests conducted for cancer-causing chemicals – the tests showed the levels of PCB present were high, which contradicted the results presented by the district.
The parent group America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a lawsuit against the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in March 2015 – the lawsuit alleged that the district violated the Toxic Substance Controls Act by neglecting to remove caulk containing elevated levels of PCB.
In a press release, Pinsker stated, “The District’s primary focus is to provide an educational environment that is safe and healthy, and SMMUSD remains confident that it has acted in the best interests of the students and staff, and in accordance with the law and directions of the lead agency, EPA, at both Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.”