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I write this letter in sadness and deep upset. Good people and vital, revered institutions are being lied to and manipulated by people they trust, people who know their lies are lies.
Race and racism is not a subject to be trifled with, nor to be used falsely for petty political gain. Lying to such historic frontline fighters for justice as the ACLU and the NAACP betrays these organizations of sacred place and vital mission and diverts energy and reputation from this moment of deadly threat and historic opportunity.
It should be clear to anyone with a map that Malibu is not a Santa Monica neighborhood breaking faith with its community. Malibu is a completely separate and far distant city. It has neither a shared border nor even a single point of contact with Santa Monica. Quite the contrary, Malibu’s public schools are further from Santa Monica’s district headquarters than 16 other entire public school districts.
In any sensible world, Malibu would be part of Las Virgenes Unified School District. Resting together on the western border of Los Angeles County, Malibu and LVUSD fit together like puzzle pieces along a 20-mile shared border.
While we’d still be a tiny super minority, outnumbered 6-to-1 as we are in Santa Monica, at least we would share ball fields, athletic leagues, transportation arteries, the same emergency services and the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments, the joint powers authority through which our neighboring cities address their many common challenges and opportunities.
In spite of these obvious facts, the elite view of too many in Santa Monica remains stuck on this narrative of Malibu’s moral bankruptcy. Yet, of the two cities, Santa Monica is the one with the history of actual redlining, deed restrictions, deliberate voter suppression, and willing participation in the destruction of an entire community of color to build a freeway.
I suppose this false moral superiority is a comforting excuse while Santa Monica hoards resources and focus. It must have been comforting as the board ignored deadly PCBs in Malibu schools until a federal judge demanded action. It must have been comforting as a huge wildfire burned 500 Malibu homes and the district failed to take action before, during or after the fire.
It must have been comforting as Malibu’s public schools remained closed during COVID while every school surrounding Malibu remained open and students hemorrhaged from the community. I suppose that’s how they justify sitting idle through a 41 percent disenrollment in Malibu public schools since 2013.
I suppose it’s easy too because, while this disenrollment is devastating to Malibu’s schools and indeed to the Malibu community itself, it represented just a 1 percent annual drop in enrollment each year for “The District as a Whole.”
And that is the understanding that’s all too absent. There is no “District as a Whole.” There is only a Santa Monica district that dictates to a separate and complete K-12 district in an entirely different and distant part of Los Angeles.
But, no, instead of acknowledging the truth that they know and that exists for all to see, they accuse us of being racists.
They should be ashamed.
Craig Foster is the lone Malibu resident on the seven-member Board of Education of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.