The South Bay Union School District (SBUSD) in Imperial Beach has sent out a warning to parents about an unknown man who recently approached two students in front of a school, offering them extra credit and a free iPad.
The school district confirmed it had issued a pre-recorded phone call to parents Tuesday evening notifying them of a stranger who encountered students Monday after school, around 2:45 p.m., at Mar Vista High School.
At least one of the students approached by the stranger was an elementary school student, the district said.
South Bay parent Veronica Barraza, who has one child in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary school at the district, shared the voicemail from SBUSD with NBC 7 Wednesday morning.
The recording said the stranger approached students and asked them to sign up for extra credit. If they did, they would have a chance at earning a free iPad, the man claimed.
The recording stated the man was not a school employee and did not have identification.
“The man was holding a clipboard in an apparent attempt to look official,” the recording stated.
The message from the school district described the stranger as a white man between 35 and 45 years old, with long, slicked back hair and a curly ponytail. Students said he had an unkempt appearance and crooked, blackened teeth. He had dark-colored eyes and was wearing a polo shirt and blue jeans.
The warning call also urged parents to discuss the incident and safety with their kids.
A report was filed with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the district told NBC 7.
Jan Caldwell of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said deputies are actively seeking the strange man reported by students. The sheriff’s report said the man offered students information about an after-school program and opportunities to earn extra credit or regain credit.
The sheriff’s department said the man was also described by students as having a slightly muscular build and a slightly pock-marked face. He may have had a goatee and may have worn glasses, the report said.
Barraza said she gathered her children at home Tuesday evening and let them all listen to the message together. Then, they talked about it, including what to do if a stranger approached them.
Barraza told NBC 7 her 7-year-old son was scared, and had a lot of questions about why the man would be giving away an iPad.
“They don’t really understand the danger that this man is trying to get kids into,” said Barraza.
She said this incident is concerning for parents of all school-age children. She told her kids that they must now wait for her behind the gate at school when she picks them up.
“When they see my car, they’re okay to come out,” she said.
Mother Leslie Marshall has a daughter who is a senior at Mar Vista High School. She said the situation is very worrisome, especially if younger elementary school kids are being preyed upon.
“That is frightening. As a parent, I don’t want anybody approaching my child,” Marshall told NBC 7. “What extra credit could possibly come from someone standing on a sidewalk in front of a school?”
Marshall said that she has told her daughter to run away from strangers if anything like this ever happens to her.
The SBUSD includes Imperial Beach Charter School, Nestor Language Academy Charter School, VIP Village Pre-School and the following elementary schools: Bayside; Godfrey G. Berry; Central; Emory; Mendoza; George Nicoloff; Oneonta; Howard Pence; and Sunnyslope.
In the pre-recorded voicemail to parents, the district did not state which elementary school the younger student approached by the stranger attends.
No children were injured in this case.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should contact the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department at (858) 565-5200 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
Manny Rubio with the Sweetwater Union High School District told NBC 7 the Mar Vista High School incident is the fourth of its kind reported since Monday of strange men approaching students, in some cases offering tutoring and free iPads.
Various different law enforcement agencies are trying to piece together the case, but officials stress that the strangers are not school employees.