Joining a broadening probe of flutes and recorders possibly contaminated with "bodily fluids" prior to being used in music classes at several Orange County school districts, Fullerton police said Wednesday that they are helping collect flutes handed out to students at Rolling Hills Elementary School.
Fullerton Elementary School District officials called police last Thursday, saying they had received a call from the state Department of Justice informing educators about an investigation of a "male who had possibly distributed flutes tainted with bodily fluids in schools within several school districts," including Fullerton, according to police Sgt. Jon Radus.
School officials asked Fullerton police to verify the call, and they confirmed that a probe was underway, but were initially told that investigators did not need the Fullerton Police Department's help, Radus said. The Department of Justice is investigating the case with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The Department of Justice official last week told Fullerton police there was no need to collect any flutes in the district, Radus said. Last night, however, USPIS officials called to say they needed students at Rolling Hills to turn in the flutes and place them in a paper bag and deliver them to the Fullerton Police Department, Radus said.
At this time, "there is no indication that these flutes are, in fact, tainted," the sergeant said. "This is being done in an abundance of caution."
On Monday, Santa Ana police reported they were also assisting in the investigation.
The instruments that were potentially contaminated in Santa Ana were recorders, which are played like flutes. Santa Ana police have identified about 55 children who took a class at Bowers Kidseum on June 27 and 28 and July 22, according to police, who said an independent contractor hired by Bowers taught the class.
Detectives have contacted most of the parents and the 11 recorders used in the class have been rounded up, according to Santa Ana police, who asked anyone who took a class at the Kidseum on those dates to call investigators at 714-245-8351.
Earlier, authorities reported potentially contaminated instruments were delivered to elementary school students in at least three Orange County school districts.
The Attorney General's Office issued a statement confirming an investigation was underway and saying that the musical instruments were being rounded up with help from local law enforcement agencies and school districts.
Emails were sent to parents of students Friday, notifying them of the investigation regarding the flutes given to them by an instructor who also is under investigation.
The instructor, who was not identified, is an independent contractor, the Orange County Register reported. The suspect wasn't an employee of the affected Orange County districts and worked at multiple school districts in Southern California, according to the newspaper, which reported that the California Department of Justice is investigating the contractor along with the Postal Inspection Service.
The flutes are made of PVC plastic piping and a single wine cork and have an exterior that can be decorated.
"We were informed that an independent contractor who provided a music enrichment program to the fifth-grade classes at Courreges Elementary School in June 2017 gave the students flutes/recorders that were potentially contaminated with bodily fluids," Fountain Valley School District Superintendent Mark Johnson said in an email obtained by the Register.
Johnson wrote that the flutes possibly went to children who participated in the Flutes Across the World Program and that Courreges Elementary was the only site in his district that may have been affected.
Similar messages went to families of students at Sonora Elementary School in Costa Mesa and the Capistrano Unified School District, though the affected schools weren't specified there.
Fountain Valley police Sgt. Kham Vang told the Register that the department was collecting the flutes at its station at 10200 Slater Ave.
Capistrano Unified School District officials were working with law enforcement to determine how to collect the instruments, which are considered by the district to be "inappropriate and unsanitary" for a child to have contact with, according to the newspaper.