Tighter gun safety in our schools — and a guilty plea from a former Edmonds-Woodway student

The Edmonds School District has amended its safety policies — to get police on scene faster — when guns are reported in schools. It comes after officers arrested a student with a gun at Edmonds-Woodway High School. That teen caught with the weapon has now pleaded guilty — but that’s just part of this story.

Edmonds-Woodway High School

On Sept. 29, at Edmonds-Woodway, two students notified administrators that a 15-year-old classmate told them he had a gun. According to court documents, the students showed text messages from the suspect “asking one of them to hold his gun for him because he was concerned he was going to be searched.” The suspect was brought to the office, his backpack searched and when staffers didn’t find anything, he was sent back to class. Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab told us that at that point, “nothing about that initial search raised a red flag.”

Snohomish County court records in Edmonds-Woodway gun case.

However, court documents show that later that morning, one of the students who made the initial report got back in touch with staff, worried about retaliation. The staff assured the student that the respondent “had been searched and did not have a weapon”. That same student told school staff they’d seen him with a gun the previous day. We are not using the suspect’s name; our policy is not to name suspects who are charged as juveniles.

But, for almost two more hours, the school took no further action. Then a third student reported that the suspect “told him that they (school staff) hadn’t found ‘it’ because he had ‘it’ near his waist/crotch area.”

Only then — at 1:11 p.m. — did the school call 911. Officers arrived within minutes, searched the suspect, found the gun, and arrested him. Schwab told us in our Oct. 13 story that “this incident shows some things we need to improve across our system and practices.”

Now,  that change in the gun threat policy has been implemented districtwide. “With regard to the updated protocol, that has come directly from me to principals that if you have a report of a student with a weapon on campus, law enforcement should be contacted at the outset,” Schwab told us in an Oct. 27 email.  “Policy and procedural language need to be updated and will be, but I did not want to wait for this step in the process to slow things down with regard to the implementation of the step regarding law enforcement.”

Meadowdale High School

The policy changes appear to have been put to the test just last week at Meadowdale High. The school quickly called Lynnwood police after a fight and the principal locked down the building. Lynnwood Police Commander Pat Fagan said that officers got there in time to talk to one student involved in the incident. School staff then found a single bullet in a backpack, but police did not find a gun.

Meadowdale High School parent Jolene Bridwell speaks to the school board Oct. 25.

However, at this week’s Edmonds School Board meeting, Meadowdale High parent Jolene Bridwell hadn’t yet heard about the new policy. Her voice cracking  with emotion, Bridwell told board members, “I cried on my commute home from work today, with an overwhelming ache of concern for my children and what I could do to help them feel safe at school.”

Now, every school staff member should know about the changes.

The Edmonds-Woodway teen pleads guilty – but…

The Snohomish County prosecutor charged the Edmonds-Woodway teen with unlawful possession of a firearm and possessing a dangerous weapon in a school. This past week, he pleaded guilty, but the court deferred sentencing on those charges. It put him on community supervision for a year, as long as he does not have access to a gun, and if he participates in juvenile rehabilitation programs. The deputy prosecutor objected, but the court ruled in favor of deferring.

Why? Turns out that King County detectives were in court too, and they had two outstanding arrest warrants for this teen — both for first-degree armed robbery. Last January, Seattle police arrested him and four others for a stickup in Rainier Beach. Documents allege that he “pulled out a black pistol, cocked the gun” and pointed it at a victim.

Then, in August, Tukwila police arrested the teen and others for stealing money and a cell phone — again at gunpoint. Surveillance video shows him with what police said was a gun, and when they arrested him just 30 minutes after the robbery, he had a Glock 29 in his pocket.

Those cases have not yet gone to trial. At some point in August, he was released pending further action. He then was able to enroll in the Edmonds School District this fall — he first attended Lynnwood High, then transferred to Edmonds-Woodway. The school district knew when he enrolled that he was wearing an electronic ankle monitor. District officials said that they did not know –– and were not told about — the King County charges that put that monitor on his leg. The district has not said whether it would have allowed him to be a student here if they had known of those charges. The suspect is currently in King County juvenile detention. He is no longer considered a student here.

His status was the last thing on Meadowdale parent Jolene Bridwell’s mind. She told the school board she hopes for just one thing: “A high standard of safety is what we all want for our children.”

— By Bob Throndsen

  1. The rate at which gun violence is increasing is terrifying! Everyday innocent people are being affected by people who act on impulse by using guns to solve their problems or get what they want! Not to mention the fact that teens, who are at the most impulsive point in their lives, are bringing guns to school! This is NOT ok!

  2. “It put him on community supervision for a year, as long as he does not have access to a gun, and if he participates in juvenile rehabilitation programs”

    Gosh, everyone’s safe now!

    Why not just give him his gun back and turn him loose? Do we
    really have to wait until this boy kills someone before serious action is taken? Two armed robberies and bringing a gun to school – and community supervision? REALLY?

  3. Please hold parents accountable as well. This was a 15 year old who already has a record. And he should not have been admitted to a regular school, he needs a lot of help.

  4. Wow King County is lucky this so called “kid” did not hurt or kill anyone in the Edmonds school district Just quietly pass along this problem to another jurisdiction and don’t tell anyone. What happened to protecting the public?

  5. Lets remember this gun had scratched out serial numbers and most likely stolen. We can make some assumptions about that at this point. That said, so, so, SO much is wrong with this situation before we even begin to talk about access to the firearm. Good lord! How was the kid allowed to get into the ESD?! And yet again almost no consequences? No wonder this happened and most likely will continue to happen.

  6. If I read this correctly the community supervision thing is a Snohomish County ruling based on the school violation only and applies only in Snohomish County. The supposedly soft on crime Sno. Co. Prosecutor protested this lenient Bench ruling. The former student is now in King County detention awaiting trial on two armed felonies there. He’s not on a diversion program for those activities and this is not as permissive as it appears at first glance. He will probably get convicted in KIng County and at least do some Juvie time for those very serious crimes. I am surprised the ESD didn’t ask for and get information on these arrests before they accepted him. That sounds a little negligent on their part in this and they should have to explain the reasoning behind accepting him and what the circumstances were surrounding his transfer from Lynnwood to Edmonds.

  7. There must be accountability for this decision by the Edmonds School District.
    From the article:
    “The school district knew when he enrolled that he was wearing an electronic ankle monitor. District officials said that they did not know –– and were not told about — the King County charges that put that monitor on his leg. The district has not said whether it would have allowed him to be a student here if they had known of those charges.”

    I’m not sure that I feel confident that the District did not know- I mean, why wouldn’t an ankle monitor be of grave concern? Additionally, I am very concerned by the fact that they have not emphatically declared that they would have disallowed this student from entering EWHS had they been aware of the prior charges.

    The next School Board Meeting is on November 8th at 6:30 pm. I encourage all residents to show up and demand accountability from the School Board and Interim/Assistant Superintendent on this situation.
    They were either inept, inexcusably uninformed, mislead or they made a really bad decision in this particular case. In any case, it endangered the lives of thousands of EWHS students and faculty.

  8. Who is responsible for jepardizing the safety of so many ESD students? Will they be held accountable?

    Ironic that it took another student to identify the risk and be persistent. Where were the adults?

  9. I can’t stress enough the importance of our relationships with our kids and grandkids. We can have a profound impact on how they act and the things they do when on their own or at school. Many parents, myself included, don’t spend enough meaningful time with our kids and we don’t spend enough time helping our kids work through the issues they experience today. I personally am not going to blame the school for the behavior of a student. Although we can all agree the school can deal with the situation better.

  10. It may be that I feel particularly upset and nauseous to read this article since my grandson is a student at EWHS, or it may be that I am increasingly fearful for all the kids of this nation as a whole because of gun violence..
    What really gets me about this situation is how instead of putting this obviously troubled teen in a supervised program while he is waiting for the other charges to go to trial, the King County Police just shuffled him north to be in school with new kids and a new environment which is a huge stressor in itself! Especially for a teenager! I know budgets are tight, but was this boy ever assessed by a therapist to evaluate how adaptable he would be to be away from his regular friends? Where is his family in all this? Perhaps it would be a good idea to implement electronic backpack searches and body searches in ALL schools. Everyone would have to start school much earlier in the day but perhaps it would give more of an opportunity for children to start school in the first place. It would cost more; but less than a life.

  11. If the Edmonds School District knew the student was wearing an electronic ankle monitor, wouldn’t you think they would at least ask why? They were waiting to be told, just like they waited to call the police. In my mind, ESD’s negligence starts by not asking why.

  12. No amount of beefing up security or “hardening” our schools is going to do more than continually add layer upon layer of always porous defense, until we come to grips as a country with the root of the problem, which is the proliferation of guns, their availability virtually everywhere, and our seeming inability even to enforce the laws we have. There is no One Great Solution, and given that we are a nation of 50 states with varying laws – no license required to carry a gun in Texas – the steps we take will need to be national, perhaps with a redefinition of the 2nd Amendment. It may take an array of measures, and it will take a now-abandoned willingness to listen to each other and to make reasoned compromises.

    The only other “option” is continual death and loss, and the possible gradual demise of our school system. Until we are willing to confront the “gun problem” we can never begin to solve the “shooting problem.” Other countries have done it. We used to be a “can do” nation, and proud of it. Can we confront and solve the relentless crisis which we now face?

    1. Nathaniel, your first paragraph last sentence says it all. It now isn’t enough for one to just win a political office, one has to attack his opponent personally and try to destroy his character in the process. “Lock her up” and “Hang Mike Pence.” It’s small wonder that our kids and less advantaged citizens are the collateral damage in this all or nothing World we have created for ourselves. I see the extreme Right now calls all who are anywhere on the Left, Communists and the Extreme Left calls all, anywhere on the Right, Fascists. Watching Democracy die, just isn’t much fun. Watching our kids live in fear and often suffer and die is even worse.

    2. Nathaniel thanks for the logic. The second amendment has backfired. The NRA and gun manufacturers have mired it with money for politicians. Many legislatures are spineless when money is dangled and the “nays” for gun safety measures after Sandy Hook said it all for me. It was a low our country may never come back from and the kids and parents are relegated to a constant worry that no one in a civilized country should experience.

  13. Nathaniel, you hit the mark. I worked overseas and felt safer there than here at home. When a personal freedom keeps on killing people, it’s time for a change. And the constitution allows for a militia, not people storing guns in their homes to make neighborhoods unsafe.

  14. I agree with much of what you said, Nathanial, but as we know the lawmakers have been slow to act. In the meantime there has to be a better solution to protect the kids.

  15. Bob, thank you for your very detailed explanation of a troubling and, complex situation. Your professionalism is much appreciated.

  16. The recent incident at Edmonds-Woodway High School is yet another reminder that today’s youngsters live in a world where gun violence is an unfortunate fact of life. A recent survey found the astonishing statistic that thirty percent of teens and young adults have experienced gun violence personally.

    The rise in gun-related injury and death among young people is due, in part, to the myth that gun ownership enhances safety. In fact, peer-reviewed research shows the exact opposite – owning a gun creates a situation where people are at much greater risk of experiencing a tragedy such as suicide, homicide, or accidental shootings, compared to the unlikely scenario of using a firearm in self-defense.

    Unfortunately, students and young people are very susceptible to the prevailing cultural narrative – however erroneous and misinformed – that guns are cool and necessary for self-defense. Similar to other programs offered to young people such as sex education/health classes and Drivers Education, incorporating at least one presentation into the high school curriculum – based on facts, data, and evidence – about the realities they face due to gun violence could help young people make better choices about the risks associated with guns and gun ownership.

  17. Larry, how dare you suggest something as controversial and potentially dangerous to young minds as actual knowledge being given to them about what guns are, how they work, and what they do when misused? Next you will be advocating sex education and civics being taught in the public schools. And don’t even think about teaching the real history of slavery and physical and cultural genocide on our Indigenous peoples ( both those people could tell us a thing or two about gun violence). You must be some sort of Communist. I jest of course. A great idea and much needed.

  18. When thinking through this, try to consider the information they had at the time and the restrictions they likely have to follow. I couldn’t imagine being a teacher now with all of the requirements, constant reporting, and lack of accountability from students.
    So a kid with an ankle monitor shows up at school. The administration likely cannot even ask why an ankle monitor since this is a minor. We wouldn’t want to upset the parents, violate the child’s civil rights, or hurt his/her feelings.
    They searched the kid on eye-witness testimony, but found nothing. What more can you do? Toss his locker, search his friends, sweep the classrooms on “maybe”? Worth it if it stops a shooting for sure, but what happens when you come up empty handed? Now that a crime has been confirmed throw the bloody book at him! Locked up in prison for 15 years. If I showed up at work with a compact gun with tampered serial numbers, a MAJOR crime btw, and had two armed robberies under my belt I would be in prison the rest of my life. Hold criminals to the same standard to which you hold citizens.

  19. And there could be more to the story. There OFTEN is more to the story when trying to look at the whole picture.

  20. Come now. Any school authority would have the right upon registration into the district to ask the kid and/or his parents why he’s wearing the ankle monitor and the kid would have the right to either tell them why, or tell them it’s none of their business or please ask my parents about it. That simple act would have probably resolved the matter before it reached the level it did. Also, if you lock a 15 to 17 year old kid up for 15 years, he will definitely come out the other end a confirmed criminal and you will most likely have the opportunity to keep locking him up. You pay for all this, by the way, whether you help him or help him become a life long criminal as opposed to a disturbed juvenile that might be helped. I’d respectfully suggest trying to help him with a firm but not overly lengthy sentence including some heavy duty counseling the first time around. If he were an adult, that would be different.

    1. That is a good point – perhaps I jumped to prison too soon for a 15 year old boy. Although I don’t think incarceration is out of the realm of possibility. A year of community supervision and the juvenile rehabilitation program didn’t seem accomplish anything. He was arrested for two armed robberies and released pending further investigation. If committing armed robbery is consequence-free why change? We pay for mental health professionals, therapists, and counselors as well as prisons (which have their own counselors) with taxes. How many times have heard, “all of the warning signs were there but nobody acted”? If it takes a bodybag to consider locking somebody up it is too late.

  21. I watched the Murray / Smiley Town Hall and according to Smiley, all this gun violence and crime is totally because we don’t have enough mental health counseling in our society. Murray’s take was that the 2nd amendment has been used to allow things like assault weapons and easy no control gun sales to proliferate in our society and those things should be stopped. We believe what we want to believe but I suspect they are both right to a certain extent; as I suspect your and I, James, are both right about this local gun related event to a certain extent. Our schools, courts and police systems are over worked, understaffed and have way to much expected of them. We are woefully short in affordable mental health care and substance abuse treatment for the masses and especially the poor. It’s getting to the point where good health care, good housing, and good legal advice are only for the well heeled among us. We don’t want Autocracy, nor do we want Socialism. Our middle class is disappearing as we become the rich minority with benefits and the poor majority without. It’s a dilemma for the ages.

  22. Thanks Clinton. We need medical care for all when needed, and that included mental health. Thing is, false info online also contributes to poor mental health and agitates people. I see that “macho” street racing events are on TV, and image building that is so far off of reality, and that, including systemic racism, all contributes. During the
    pandemic these things came into public view, but it’s been going on for years. Many, many things contribute to good mental health, not just having treatment available.

    How good that this conversation is happening!

  23. Blaming gun violence on a lack of mental health resources is delusional. This is a favorite refrain from those on the right, who seek to limit the gun violence epidemic to a few bad actors who somehow fell through the crack before they were identified as potential mass murderers. The assumption is that all the information needed to prevent these tragedies was there in plain sight and somehow overlooked. This ignores the fact that most gun violence is not committed by deranged, antisocial pariahs.

    About 60% of all deaths from firearms are suicides. Mental health conditions like depression are very common and may be a factor in those deaths. However, it is unrealistic to think that we could screen thousands of people periodically, accurately identify those at imminent risk of perpetrating gun violence, and provide effective mental health treatment in a timely fashion. I suspect that most homicides have causes other than mental health issues.

    The key to reducing gun violence is reducing accessibility to firearms and implementing reasonable gun control measures, as has been done in virtually every other western nation.

    1. Larry, I’m trying to wrap my head around possible causes of homicides other than mental health issues. I guess some people kill other people to take their stuff, avenge unfaithful lovers and/or paramours, the thrill of it, and to make political statements. All of these things seem to me to have some sort of bad mental health element to them. I don’t think mentally normal or healthy people tend to do such things. Killing in self defense would seem to me to be the only exception.

      There are an awful lot of just plain bat_ _ _ t crazy people in our society with almost no regulations as to obtaining firearms. I certainly agree with you though about the Right. Their only answers to everything and anything are “privatize” and “deregulate.” As a result we have things like the housing meltdown in 08 and homeless people in almost every public space available. The Left at least wants to help people but, they too fail, because they just want to give them everything, no questions asked.

      1. Jealously, fear, retribution and retaliation, panic, gang violence, drug-induced violence, mob hits, stand-your-ground laws, …, there is a wide variety of causes of homicides. I suppose if you broaden the definition of “mental health issues” enough perhaps it would encompass all of these. However, I don’t think these are what most people think of when discussing mental health. I would consider the things mentioned above to be more societal, cultural, and/or emotional factors of homicide, sadly.

        1. Your added causes don’t exactly scream out normal civilized human behavior to me but we can agree to disagree about what a mental health issue is. Biologically speaking we are members of the Great Ape family and a huge characteristic of the Great Apes in general are the presence of larger dominant males who dominate thru violence or threat of it against female mates and competing males. Maybe the penchant for violence is just who we are which is kind of a sad state of affairs, if true. Our political Right has certainly embraced violence or the threat of violence as a means to the ends of getting and retaining power.

  24. I totally agree about the conversation being needed. I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a young person trying to get a start in life these days. I went to high school wondering what they would serve for lunch or if my dream girlfriend would at least smile at me. Now kids go to school wondering if someone will try to kill them today or if they will serve a free meal to take the edge off being hungry. If I do okay in H.S. I get to borrow at least 50K to get a higher education and a decent job with it. And, meanwhile blue collar trades are begging for more help and we don’t promote trade schools like we should to provide that type of education. Crazy world.

    1. But Clinton, unlike Planet of the Apes, we have the keen ability to evolve and embrace our intelligence which will, hopefully by now, steer “evolved humans” to “make peace, not war.”

      1. Vivian, Considering recent events in Ukraine and Mr. Pelosi getting brained. I question just how evolved and intelligent we really are.

  25. It’s time for the Edmonds School District to bring police back to the schools. This is a clear warning that removing police from schools was a dangerous mistake.

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