UPDATE 4:40 P.M. MONDAY
Local, state and federal agencies are investigating a music specialist who allegedly placed bodily fluids on “flute like instruments” at as many as 23 school districts throughout Southern California, including two in the Santa Clarita Valley.
During the weekend the Saugus Union School District (SUSD) and the Castaic Union School District (CUSD) warned parents of the ongoing investigation of the music teacher, whose identity has not been released, that visited school campuses as part of the “Flutes Across the World” program.
“The performer distributes a flute-like musical instrument made of PVC pipe or bamboo to students during a music lesson, and the allegation is that he contaminated some of these instruments with semen,” SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid said in a Saturday email to parents. “These allegations are deeply concerning, and I realize they raise many questions.”
The investigation into the incident is being conducted by the United State Postal Inspection Service with assistance from the California Department of Justice, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and multiple law enforcement agencies.
A statement to The Signal from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations and could not provide information on how it discovered the alleged incidents.
However, Lucid noted that law enforcement is “focusing on workshops where students made ‘flutes’ out of PVC pipe with a specific individual.”
This includes at least seven locations— Bridgeport, James Foster, Mountainview, North Park, Rosedell, Tesoro del Valle and West Creek—where the independent contractor provided workshops, assemblies and evening programs.
SUSD said it is not listing schools that held a similar program with a different music specialist because, based on the district’s knowledge, the individual is not part of the investigation.
Five SUSD schools, including Emblem, Highlands, Plum Canyon, Rio Vista and Santa Clarita Elementary Schools, did not host workshops or assemblies from the individual being investigated.
On Monday, CUSD announced that the “Flutes Across the World Program” was only at Castaic Elementary, but that the music specialist also provided assemblies at Live Oak Elementary and Northlake Hills Elementary.
Both districts confirmed that students were never left alone with the individual being investigated and that they were never without teacher supervision.
CUSD and SUSD are working with law enforcement and encouraged parents to place the decorated flutes in sealed paper bags and take them to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, located at 23740 Magic Mountain Parkway.
“In an abundance of caution, we are asking families who may have had children in the district in this type of program, in which the students decorated PVC flutes or participated in other similar programs within the community, to remove those flutes from your child’s possession and place them in a sealed paper bag,” CUSD Superintendent Steve Doyle said in an email to parents.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said they received at least 10 flutes from parents on Monday alone.
“Again, I wish to apologize for this difficult situation,” Doyle said. “Please know that this is an ongoing investigation and we are limited in what we can share.”
To answer some of parents’ questions, SUSD created an “Investigation Information” page on its website that is expected to be updated each day at 10 a.m. with new information.
“While we do not have answers to all the questions coming in, the purpose of this message is to provide the information that we do have at this time, and let you know that we will continue to work to answer your questions,” the page read.
The news shocked parents who took to social media to express their concerns and frustrations on the public Santa Clarita Community Facebook page.
“I am feeling so disgusted,” Erin Thompson Hill wrote. “My daughter was in this program at North Park last spring and still uses her flute regularly.”
“Even though my child was not in that program, this is outrageous, disgusting, horrifying and absolutely atrocious,” Randi E. Wyatt-Billings wrote. “I’m sorry to the children and parents who have been violated.”
Other parents expressed their desire to have their children tested for sexually transmitted infections.
“Part of me is still concerned,” a parent told The Signal. “It could go further.”
Out of caution, Lucid said SUSD temporarily ended all events with outside contractors and consultants that come into contact with students.
Doyle also released the U.S. Postal Inspector Hotline number for inquiries and information. Parents are welcome to call the hotline at 626-405-1200.
At this time, SUSD and CUSD were the only school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley reportedly impacted by the alleged incident.
Signal reporter Ryan Painter contributed to this story.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_