Concerns Over Multiple Illnesses Force Malibu High Classroom Shutdown

Outside agencies and companies have been called in to help determine whether the campus is contaminated

By Angie Crouch
|  Wednesday, Oct 9, 2013  |  Updated 10:50 AM PDT
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District officials held a meeting with parents, students and teachers on Tuesday to talk about contamination testing at Malibu  High School. Angie Crouch reports from Malibu for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2013.

Angie Crouch

District officials held a meeting with parents, students and teachers on Tuesday to talk about contamination testing at Malibu High School. Angie Crouch reports from Malibu for NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2013.

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Middle school students on a Malibu campus will learn in different classrooms Wednesday while investigators determine if their usual classrooms are safe following reports that three teachers were recently diagnosed with similar cancers after working in the building.

Parents at Malibu High School met with school leaders Tuesday over concerns that contamination on campus could be the cause of illnesses among students and teachers, including the recent cancer diagnoses of three educators.

“I’m going to be very on top of the facts because I want to make an educated decision about what’s the next best step for the health of our children,” parent Anita Hansen said.

The Malibu campus includes the high school and middle school. Environmental testing was performed last week in eight middle school classrooms in a portion of the campus known as Building E.

Three teachers who worked in that building recently have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, three more educators have thyroid problems, and others report suffering from migraines and skin rashes.

Over the past few days, some students have gone home early complaining they feel sick, including Sofia Castellani.

“I have gotten migraines and my friends have bad migraines,” the student said.

District officials said they have hired an Arcadia engineering firm to look closer at classroom conditions, interview the sick teachers and check into a report showing contaminated soil was removed from campus three years ago.

A group of parents sent a letter to the superintendent and school board Monday night asking for the tests’ results. And they called on the district to move their children into temporary trailers until the testing is complete.

“Then the district can take as much time as they need to investigate the situation and once the school confirms it’s safe, the kids can move back in,” parent Derek Newman said of a plan to temporarily relocate the students.

“If we find the grounds are not safe, then it was important to relocate them.”

Sandra Lyon, the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, announced late Tuesday afternoon that students will no longer be taught in Building E's eight classrooms.

Instead, they will be relocated to other classrooms on campus or next door to Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

Lyon met with staff before class Tuesday and told parents the district believes the campus is safe, but is doing the testing to be sure.

Hundreds of parents, teachers and staff packed an auditorium Tuesday evening for a closed meeting with school officials. At that meeting, Lyon said a community liason will be appointed to relay information and updates about contaminant testing to parents.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department has been brought on board to conduct a voluntary health survey of all employees on campus, and an environmental consulting firm in Arcadia will analyze data collected from environmental tests in Building E.

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