Newsmakers has learned that in the past 24 hours the Police Department received a copy of a private investigator’s report prepared for the Santa Barbara Unified School District about the MAD Academy controversy and now will look into the information it contains.
“The contents of the document will be reviewed by our Investigations Division,” SBPD Public Information Officer Anthony Wagner told us Monday morning. Wagner confirmed that the department received the report on Sunday.
An attorney for the school district declined to comment on this story.
The surprise finding caps a three-day roller coaster of news about the MAD affair that began late Friday and which has focused on official confidential information gathered amid student and parent allegations of adult misconduct at the esteemed Multimedia Arts & Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School.
Late Friday, Superintendent Cary Matsuoka sent out a statement saying that the district was “in contact” with the SBPD and the District Attorney’s office, after hiring a private investigator in January to look into the matter; he said the district had taken “every allegation…seriously,” described the internal investigation as “ongoing” and said that steps have been taken “to ensure student safety.”
On Saturday, Newsmakers interviewed District Attorney Joyce Dudley and SBPD spokesman Wagner, who disclosed that neither agency had an investigation involving MAD; our Sunday post reported that although an attorney for the school district had informed law enforcement of the existence of SBUSD’s private investigative report, neither the cops nor the DA had a copy.
Today, following a scathing round of social media commentary -- some by parents angry in their belief that school district officials have not fulfilled their legal duty as “mandated reporters” of information that would lead to a “reasonable suspicion” that children had been victimized - we learned that the disputed private investigator’s report is now in the hands of the police.
Some parents, outraged over what they have perceived as an attempt by Matsuoka and administrators to downplay parent and student complaints, have been preparing to testify at Tuesday’s (May 28) school board meeting, when the five members are to consider the MAD affair in closed session.
That portion of the meeting begins at 5 p.m. and members of the public are allowed at that time to offer comment on closed session agenda items only, before the board goes into the confidential portion of its deliberations. After they return for the open portion of the meeting, there is also time allotted for public comment.
Matsuoka’s statement on Friday confirmed for the first time that the district had hired a private investigator who examined accusations lodged against Pablo Sweeney, who resigned in March as operations director of the MAD Academy, and Dan Williams, director of the program, who was placed on paid administrative leave in April, but allowed to return to campus not long after, accompanied by the announcement that he is retiring as of June 30.
Two parents have told the school board that in January 2018, their son informed Williams of his concerns about what they described as Sweeney’s alleged “predation,” which they said was directed at the boy because of his sexual orientation. They complained that Williams allegedly rebuffed the complaint instead of reporting it up the chain of command as a “mandated reporter.”
Efforts to locate Sweeney have been unsuccessful; Williams, who has been represented by an attorney for the California Teachers Association, has not spoken about the matter publicly.
The day before their testimony, another parent released a video found on social media that shows Williams, apparently in a private home, with laughing students, one of whom displays a bong and marijuana and shouts “Yack and Rally!” a party refrain apparently popular with people born in this century. Several of the students defended Williams in a recent newspaper interview and said the episode was innocent.
Images: This Just In; MAD Academy; Cary Matsuoka.