Suspension brings PTA resignation
by Lenny Roberts
Matilija Junior High School Parent Teacher Association President
Susan Malkin believes that school officials overreacted when
her son and other seventh-graders were suspended for mimicking
a gang-style initiation last week on campus.
Because of that belief, she has resigned from the position.
"Apparently, there's a gang called OSL, or Old School Latinos,
and they had beat up rather severely a white boy and sent him
to the hospital. The administration felt it was not necessary
to tell the parents," Malkin said. "My son and his
friends, at some point in time, decided to defend themselves,
and formed what they called a gang to protect themselves and
anyone else they thought was being harassed. The Bricks were
the friendly guys."
They call themselves Bricks, because that's where about a dozen
friends like to hang out during lunchtime at the El Paseo Road
campus. The boys, according to Malkin, were booted out of school
for five days for what administrators
termed gang-like involvement.
According to MJHS principal Christine Golden, the dozen or so
boys who were suspended had written "Bricks" on a teacher's
classroom whiteboard, began roaming together on campus, gathered
and performed jump-ins, identified themselves as a gang, and
began using hand signs.
"We approached this situation in exactly the same way that
we approached the first situation," Golden said. "These
boys were involved in exactly the same activity and met the criteria
as advised by the Police Department. All of the boys and their
parents were invited to meet with district administrators and
the police to advise them as to why these actions were taken.
"They were involved in activities like the older OSL members,
and had we not become aware, they could have led to serious problems.
We had to send a message that even joking-type behavior can be
Although Golden insisted that the Bricks' actions merited suspensions,
Malkin argued that the boys - albeit while acting irresponsibly
- were just being 14-year-old boys, and that the punishment was
"What is so upsetting, and the reason I resigned, is that
the parents were not informed of the (alleged gang activities)
because the administration wanted to keep it a secret from the
parents and the PTA," she alleged.
"My son was not called in by anyone to discuss his behavior.
They said my son is the gang leader, and Christine Golden told
me that he's lucky not to have been expelled or arrested, and
that now, if two or more of these boys are seen talking at any
time during school, that's grounds for expulsion."
Not true, said Golden.
Malkin said that she was at school when a staff meeting was called,
where it was decided not to inform the parents that a boy had
been injured in the "jump-in," in which a new member
is repeatedly punched by gang members as a way for him or her
to profess devotion to their new family. Because the school's
administrators did not inform the parents of the alleged injury
- and her son's ultimate suspension - she has enrolled her son
in a private school.
"He's officially enrolled in the Ojai Valley Christian School
so that he can learn to respect authority figures. Right now,
he has no respect for Mrs. Golden and Mrs. Law," Malkin
said. "If these kids come back to Matilija, some will return
as heroes. I wouldn't allow that for my son.
"We don't live in East LA. She didn't inform anyone. She
told me my son is the leader of the gang. If she really thought
that people were in danger, why was this was pushed under the
blanket? I can't believe it.
"These boys should not have pretended that they had a gang
- that's just plain stupid. But you don't call them in and scare
them and suspend them," Malkin said.
Golden said the Bricks would have been suspended regardless of
the earlier suspensions to the alleged OSL members.
"We did what is always school policy in this case, I sat
in to observe and make sure things would go according to Hoyle.
All procedures were followed in this instance, and I think the
assistant principal (Jackie Law) conducted herself absolutely
correctly in this situation.
"She conveyed that they're good boys who made a bad decision;
that this would be a learning situation for them; and that this
was a dangerous situation for them and for the school. We're
delighted that most of those boys have decided to come back,
and we're thrilled to death that we were able to stop this and
keep this is a safe campus. We really did have the overwhelming
support of the parents."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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