Student-made sex video shocks L.A. Jewish school

los angeles | Milken Community High School in Los Angeles is facing a series of complex issues and emotions following the administration’s discovery a few weeks ago that three students had filmed sexually explicit videos and then shared them with other students.

The three students, two boys and a girl in 10th and 11th grades, were expelled. Parents and teachers were devastated to learn of the incident, which follows two scandals last year, one in which a student hacked into computers to erase a senior’s SAT score, and another in which a girl left the school after allegations of promiscuity damaged her reputation.

The events have raised questions about whether it is realistic or fair to hold students at a Jewish high school to a different standard from that of the society at large.

“Children will be children, and some children make some terrible choices,” said Rennie Wrubel, head of school at Milken, which is associated with Stephen S. Wise Temple and named after Michael Milken, the financial analyst who made millions but was imprisoned for securities fraud in 1989. Milken has given millions to charities centered around Jewish life and fighting cancer. He donated the funds for the Milken Community High School prior to his imprisonment.

Wrubel said that while students are given the tools to make ethical decisions, the

adolescent drive and societal influences can present formidable obstacles.

“I think what you have when you come to a Jewish day school is the opportunity for your children each and every day to be discussing values and ethics and morals. … We can’t prevent

every problem from

happening, but we can be there for our community and for our children.”

The school, with 834 students in grades 7-12, has responded to the latest incident with an aggressive openness, holding an assembly for parents last Thursday, having continuing coffees with parents, and dialoging with students in Jewish studies classes and in meetings with faculty advisers. The school has consulted with professionals in areas from mental health to public relations.

“Our first concern was to get the community involved, because this is not only a school issue, this is a community issue and this is a parenting issue,” Wrubel said. “We felt it was very important to bring us all together in partnership to talk about how we deal with situations like this and other situations that could arise at any time, because these are adolescents and it is their job to push boundaries, and we know that.”

Administrators found out about the videos about three weeks ago when parents came forward saying their child had viewed the DVD on a school computer. The school interviewed students who had reportedly viewed the DVD, and later the three who were in the film.

All three admitted their involvement. Roger Fuller, the upper-school principal, and Jonathan Cassie, the 11th-grade dean, conducted the interviews with parents present, and no one from the administration viewed the videos. Since the case involves minors, law enforcement officials were called in, though Wrubel declined to say which agencies were involved, fearing it could impede the investigation.