Superintendent apologizes to parents for delayed communication about video threat

Superintendent apologies to San...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka apologized to parents during a public safety forum at San Marco High School.

Matsuoka apologized for not communicating promptly with all the parents and families.

He said on January 19, students notified adults about an offensive video found in a private chat room.

A Sheriff's detective explained that chat rooms are often connected to video games. A portion of the video shows a teen with a bayonet and neo-Nazi images.  

In a letter to parents, the district said the threat was made by a small group of students against a larger group of students at San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara High Schools and La Colina Junior High School.

Although laws prevent the district and law enforcement from talking about the juveniles involved and the disciplinary action taken, parents said the students have not been in school since the video surfaced.

The superintendent said he worked in another district during the Isla Vista shooting and stabbings that left 6 UC Santa Barbara students dead in May 2014.

He said he underestimated the emotional impact of that tragedy.

"The Isla Vista shooting really impacted this community in a very negative way," said  Matsuoka.

Parents said they wished he was at the first meeting called to discuss the video. They also accused educators of downplaying the threat. Several parents called the video misogynistic and said it was part of a rape culture. They asked if the district could make this a teaching moment.

Parents said they want their children to learn how to be good citizens online and off-line.

Monica Hamilton said, " They should already have a protocol in place for cyber-bullying and threats and this was a real threat and they need to take it seriously and they need to alert parents and be on it. 
This is no joke. School shootings, there's been 12 of them since January first."

The superintendent said he would support a petition asking for a school resource officer on campus. The petition already has 1,000 signatures.

Matsuoka had his lawyer nearby and said he was not in favor of zero tolerance policies that lead to more minority suspensions.

Toward the end of the forum, he invited parents to attend the upcoming school board meetings on February 13 and 27.

School Board did not attend. 

The superintendent said if too many of board members attended the forum they might be in violation of the Brown Act intended to prevent informal meetings by local government bodies.

The case involving students and the chat room video remains under criminal investigation.

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