By Annie Mitchell,
Multiple news organizations reported last week that two Da Vinci Charter Academy students baked and distributed sugar cookies at school on Oct. 3 that allegedly contained the ashes of one of the student’s grandparents. This three-week old incident attracted widespread media attention–with stories published from as far as London–and has also caused rumors and speculation to circulate throughout Davis.
The Davis Police Department initially helped the Davis Joint Unified School District conduct an investigation into the incident. Davis police spokesman Lt. Paul Doroshov said that the incident may fall under California penal code 370 for a “public nuisance,” but that he doesn’t “really feel that there was an intentional criminal act at this point.”
This week, Lt. Doroshov confirmed to The HUB that the police have handed the investigation over completely to the district.
The district released a media statement on Oct. 16, but has not distributed any additional information since that date.
Da Vinci students were left to grapple with the consequences of the incident.
Five Da Vinci students that the HUB reached out to about the issue refused to offer information, either citing fear of punishment from the school or from their student leadership class.
A Da Vinci student who preferred to remain anonymous said many students agree that the incident should not be discussed.
“I believe [if] I talk about it, it will help the bad stigma of Da Vinci continue on. I would rather talk about all the great parts of the school that I love,” the student said.
Here are the details of the incident that the HUB has compiled and confirmed with two or more students.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
The cookies were distributed at Da Vinci and the student claimed they contained a grandparent’s ashes, Lt. Doroshov told the Sacramento Bee.
The HUB learned this week that the cookies may have been distributed to students at Davis High as well.
DHS sophomore Sunny Silverstein told the HUB that she was offered one of the cookies by a split-site Da Vinci student during a DHS class.
“It felt spongy and weirdly crumbly. And I just kept eating it because I didn’t want to be rude but then it started getting worse. It started tasting like kinda sandy and weird, and I was like, ‘I don’t really like this cookie.’ […] And then I just threw it away. I probably ate like half of it,” Silverstein said.
Silverstein’s account was confirmed by one other student in the class, but the teacher of the class told the HUB that he never saw any cookies in his classroom.
Silverstein said she was told by the Da Vinci student a week later that the cookie she ate contained a grandparent’s ashes.
“Later, I went home and I cried. It was like really intense. I ate someone. Like I ate parts of someone, which is like, weird. It’s just weird to me,” Silverstein said.
I went home and I cried. It was like really intense. I ate someone.
Sophomore Sunny Silverstein
Rumors about the incident began circulating at Da Vinci. However, some students, like Da Vinci junior Selby Anderson, were not aware of the incident until many media outlets ran the story weeks later. “I only know the stuff that’s been in the news. None of us really know anything,” Anderson said.
Thursday, Oct. 4
After receiving student reports about the cookies, the Davis Police Department began an investigation to determine a resolution in conjunction with the DJUSD, according to Lt. Doroshov. The investigation included interviewing students, parents and teachers about the incident.
Monday, Oct. 15
A Da Vinci student and his family were featured, with their faces and voices disguised, in a Fox40 video describing their reaction to the events. The parents criticized the school for not informing families sooner about the incident.
Colin Sira, a junior at Da Vinci, was the student who spoke to Fox 40 and he spoke to The HUB this week. Sira said that he did not eat a cookie, though he was offered one. Later, he was called into the school’s office and asked to write about what he knew of the incident.
“I signed a statement with the principal saying everything I said was true,” Sira said. “After that he told me not to tell anyone; we don’t need negative tension in school.”
However, Sira said he opted to tell his parents about the cookies because he thought the incident should not be kept quiet. Together, they spoke to Fox40.
“When I did my interview with Fox, I was really, like, scared that the school was going to expel me or something like that because they directly told me not to tell anyone,” Sira said.
Students and parents also began sharing and discussing the incident on social media. Some Instagram comments directed to the students who distributed the cookies were blunt, calling them “disgusting.” Others were sympathetic: “I honestly feel bad for you, you’re probably getting bullied,” one comment read.
Tuesday, Oct. 16
The DJUSD released a statement regarding the cookies, emphasizing that the incident was a “confidential student matter” and “personal family matter.” The statement also reassured the community that the health and safety of Da Vinci students was never in jeopardy and that those involved in the incident are “remorseful.” The statement reads, in part:
This recent case has been particularly challenging and we have responded appropriately and in the most respectful and dignified way possible. Those who were involved are remorseful and this is now a personal family matter and we are want to respect the privacy of the families involved.
Maria Clayton, DJUSD public information officer
Da Vinci Principal Tyler Millsap released a statement addressed to parents on the school’s website. The statement was similar to the district’s, adding that that the school “regret[s] that this issue has been taken up by the media.”
Da Vinci student Andy Knox, who said he ate one of the cookies, described the cookies to KCRA-TV. The Los Angeles Times published a story that also included an interview with Knox. “[The student] told me there’s a special ingredient in the cookie … I thought that she put drugs in it or something,” Knox said in the LA Times article.
According to multiple Da Vinci students, Da Vinci vice principal Scott Bell visited classes and advised students to avoid gossiping about the situation. Furthermore, members of the Da Vinci student government said that their class was specifically instructed by their teacher to not talk about the incident, as it put Da Vinci in a negative light.
Hannah Cho, Saebean Yi, Claire Stevens, Rayan Tilmatine, Tess McIntyre and Lili Ma contributed reporting.