John Brazil, whose grandchildren attend Luigi Aprea Elementary, was among those protesting outside the Gilroy Unified School District board of education meeting March 7. Photo: Michael Moore
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Parents of some of the students who attend Luigi Aprea Elementary School took their concerns and frustrations to the Gilroy Unified School District board after a potentially dangerous criminal suspect was allowed to enter the campus late last month. 

About 40 parents, grandparents, students and concerned citizens held a demonstration outside Gilroy Unified School District headquarters on Arroyo Circle before the March 7 board of education meeting. Demonstrators held hand-written signs and urged passing vehicles to honk their horns as they chanted, “Safety for our kids” and other slogans. 

Dozens of parents then filed into the board meeting room as the regular school board meeting began. They lined up to speak about what they described as inadequate communication and ineffective implementation of campus safety measures in relation to the Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 incidents involving Markus Beck, who is now in Santa Clara County Jail facing multiple charges. 

Some of the parents accused Luigi Aprea staff of lying to parents about Beck’s behavior when he entered the Calle Del Rey campus on Feb. 26, and many feared that the school narrowly avoided a more tragic outcome. 

“This is my first time with a kid in school (and) this is almost like a parent’s worst nightmare coming true,” said a parent who only gave her first name, Ashley, whose child is in kindergarten at Luigi Aprea. “It was that close to a tragedy and I want (the board) to own up to that, and make a change. Make it safer.”

Beck, 46, who lives less than a quarter-mile from Luigi Aprea, was arrested by Gilroy Police early in the morning on Feb. 28 on suspicion of hit and run, driving under the influence and weapons offenses. When officers contacted Beck in response to a collision accident in the area of Mantelli Drive and Wren Avenue, they found two loaded firearms in his vehicle.

Police then served a search warrant at Beck’s home on Mockingbird Lane, which Beck had allegedly rigged as “an explosive booby trap” by turning his unlit gas stove top on high, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. Police, firefighters and PG&E were able to secure the home, while authorities briefly evacuated the surrounding area including the Luigi Aprea campus. 

Gilroy Police revealed on Feb. 28 that Beck had previously entered the Luigi Aprea campus on Feb. 26, where he told school staff he wanted to speak with a specific person. School staff told Beck to leave and called police, but he continued to loiter on the campus perimeter, police said. 

By the time police arrived at the school on Feb. 26, Beck had returned home where officers told him to stay away from the school. 

A chief concern among parents is that neither Luigi Aprea’s principal nor GUSD staff notified parents about Beck’s Feb. 26 appearance on campus. Parents did not know about that incident until Gilroy Police on Feb. 28 released details of his arrest to the public, numerous parents said. 

Vanessa Vidal, whose daughter attends kindergarten at Luigi Aprea, said she attended the March 7 rally at GUSD headquarters because of “the failure of the principal and Luigi Aprea, and the district not notifying us of the potential harm and danger that could have happend to our children until two days later—only after the police caught this person for another crime. That is completely unacceptable.” 

Vidal added that when the district finally began communicating with parents about the Feb 26 incident, they “played it down” by suggesting that the students had not been in danger. “That should be alarming,” Vidal said. 

Yuritzi Madrigal, whose twin daughters attend Luigi Aprea, said “it was terrifying” when she found out what had happened on campus two days after it occurred. She noted that if Beck had not been caught allegedly perpetrating crimes off campus on Feb. 28, the parents may have never known that he had tried to gain access to Luigi Aprea two days earlier. 

“Later we find out about the DUI, the cars that he (allegedly) hit, and the firearms he had in his car. It makes me think, what if he was going to go back to the school that same day and start shooting,” Madrigal said. “It is unfair that we were put in this position.”

GUSD Superintendent Anisha Munshi addressed the incident and the parents’ concerns during her Superintendent’s Report at the March 7 meeting. 

Munshi acknowledged that some improvements could be made in school and district staff’s responses to future safety incidents, and many of those improvements are under way. 

“We are looking at this very closely and we are learning from it to become better,” Munshi said. “There are things that are going to be different because this has impacted all of us deeply.” 

The district hired a full-time private security guard for Luigi Aprea, and erected a temporary fence around campus in the days following Beck’s arrest. Munshi said it will be replaced with a permanent fence. 

Mushi added that she and her cabinet have begun in-depth meetings with all GUSD principals on security and safety procedures. Within the week following the March 7 meeting, all schools would be conducting drills for “code blue” and “code red” situations, Munshi said, referring to standard emergency procedures when a campus faces varying levels of outside threats. 

Munshi listed a number of additional efforts to ensure school site staffs are up-to-date on their knowledge of security measures and that applicable safety equipment is working properly at all GUSD schools. 

Furthermore, the district applied for a restraining order against Beck, “out of an abundance of caution,” Munshi added. 

On March 6, also in response to parents’ outcry, the City of Gilroy and GUSD released a joint letter about the Beck incidents. Some parents complained that even that letter was lacking in key details. 

Beck has been charged by the DA’s office with numerous felony weapons charges. He is being held at Santa Clara County Jail with no bail, and his next hearing is on April 10 at the South County Courthouse. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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