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School District Repairs $200,000 in Damages After Muir Elementary Vandalism Attack

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By Jorge Casuso

August 22, 2019 -- School District officials are completing an estimated $200,000 in repairs to John Muir Elementary School after five juveniles trashed the campus during a vandalism attack in June.

The repairs -- which are covered by insurance -- included extensive remediation work to "remove residual fire extinguisher agent and the water damage caused by the flooding," District officials said.

"We are still working to replace some heavily damaged materials that we are unable to repair or clean (i.e., books, rugs)," District officials wrote in a letter sent to parents Wednesday. "They are in the purchasing process.

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"The schools are ready to open. The site is clean and ready for students and staff on Thursday."

Tha vandalism attacks took place on June 8 inside classrooms, the library, cafetorium, stage, teacher’s lounge and book room and in exterior areas ("Santa Monica School Site Trashed in Vandalism Spree," June 9, 2019).

Five juveniles between the ages of 11 and 13 admitted to vandalizing the school after a video that captured their Saturday night rampage was posted online ("Five Juveniles Admit to Vandalizing Santa Monica School," June 10, 2019).

District officials declined to comment on what disciplinary action was taken on the perpetrators, four of who attend district schools, citing the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

"The District worked closely with local law enforcement, students and parents on appropriate discipline as provided by Education Code and the Penal Code," Gail Pinsker, the District spokesperson, told the Lookout Friday.

"The District takes any type of vandalism against our schools seriously. This attack caused substantial damage and cost to the district. The students have been disciplined appropriately."

Pinsker said the estimated cost of the repairs is approximately $200,000 but noted that there are still some invoices outstanding.

The District worked with its insurance company, ASCIP, to "assist and guide in the cleanup," officials said.

The vandalism included expelling numerous fire extinguishers indoors on books, walls and flooring in classrooms and the library, and flooding rooms by turning on the sinks, Schools Superintendent Ben Drati said at the time.

Room at John Muir Elementary after it was trashed by vandals on June 8 (Courtesy Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District)

The vandals also broke windows, destroyed furniture, technology and materials, and dumped cans of paint on exteriors, Drati said.

After the attack, the District's maintenance and operations team "responded quickly to clean the campus for the remaining days of school," according to the letter sent to parents Wednesday.

In the letter, the District's Chief Operations Officer Carey Upton and its risk manager Gary Bradbury explained "the procedures applied for the removal of the fire extinguisher agent and water damage."

"Fire extinguisher residue is classified as a low health hazard with a risk of mild irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract," the letter said.

"This material is not known to cause any chronic illnesses or diseases."

The clean-up procedures included vacuuming and wiping all affected surfaces and wiping down individual items, including all books and learning materials to remove residue.

In addition, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts were inspected for residue and cleaned as needed and filters were inspected and replaced if residue was found.

The crews also identified "all areas impacted by the flooding including wall cavities and areas behind cabinets and shelves," according to the letter.

"In areas impacted by water flooding, mold growth is a concern for persons with a sensitivity to mold spores," the letter said.

A professional restoration company was hired to dry out all wet materials, deep clean carpets and upholstered furniture and run air scrubbers to clean the air in the containment area.

Air tests were performed to verify the cleaning was effective, District officials said.

Work crews also repaired damaged doors and windows, repainted where paint was splattered and recharged and replaced the fire extinguishers.

"The health and safety of your students and staff is our top priority," the letter to parents said. "The Muir / SMASH campus is safe and healthy for students and staff."

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