Edmonds School Board hears pleas for improved safety in district’s schools

Public commenter Ryan Martin urged the school board to look into other ways to ensure students’ safety in the district.

School safety was the main concern raised by public commenters at the Edmonds School District Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Many commenters said their concerns stemmed not only from the Tuesday morning shooting at Seattle’s Ingraham High School that killed one student, but also from a recent incident where a gun was found on a student at Edmonds-Woodway High School in September.

A few commenters asked the board to consider putting police officers back into schools to help kids feel safer.

“All of you [board members] don’t have to go to school on a daily basis and worry if you’re going to have someone shoot you,” Deborah Lobe said.

Ryan Martin said the district needs to figure out a way to make schools safer, whether by adding a police presence or taking an alternate route.

“I’m pleading with you from the bottom of my heart: We need to make our schools safer,” Martin said. “How do we do that? I don’t know. But what we’re doing right now, this ain’t it.”

However, Sarah Dilling said police officers in schools do not inherently make them safer, and armed individuals are not going to increase the sense of safety in schools.

“Somebody said students learn best when they feel safe,” Dilling said. “Somebody else said kids are so fearful, they need a policeman to make them feel safe, when in fact, the policeman is what makes them not feel safe, for a certain [number] of the kids. Some of the kids don’t feel safe when cops are around. Other kids feel safer. Everyone is different.”

Dilling urged the board to look at alternate safety options that do not involve police officers returning to schools.

Karen Mosman criticized school staff and questioned why the two students who initially came forward about the gun at Edmonds-Woodway were not taken seriously enough to warrant contacting police.

“My question is why did it take three students to report the same incident before action was taken?” she asked.

Elizabeth Fleming said one of the students who told staff about the gun was so worried about being targeted for speaking out that they didn’t feel safe going back to class.

“These two students that [initially] stepped forward deserve to be honored,” she said.

Director Gary Noble talked about supporting district students after Tuesday’s shooting at Seattle’s Ingraham High School.

Director Keith Smith thanked the community for showing up and voicing their concerns for students in the community.

“I’m thankful we have a community out here that is very concerned with our students’ safety,” Smith said. “I respect the fact that maybe not all of us are going to agree on what that looks like, but we should all have a seat at that table to make sure our kids get home safe every day because that’s all we really want.”

Director Gary Noble said his heart goes out to all the students and families from Ingraham High School but also voiced his concern to students throughout the region who are now on high alert after the incident.

“We will have counselors at all of our high schools tomorrow [Wednesday] but be aware that there’s a lot of angst in our students,” Noble said. “Give them a little extra space and a little extra support if you can.”

Director Carin Chase said she hopes the community stands together in the wake of the tragedy.

“As we move forward in the [safety] discussion, know that our school board and our community takes this very seriously,” Chase said. “We love our students, we love our community. This is a strong community and I think we can stand together in understanding that a belonging and safe environment for all of our students to learn in is the priority that we can all align upon.”

In addition, four public commenters asked the board to delay the planned dual language program implementation at Mountlake Terrace Elementary School. While each commenter said they supported the program, they felt the implementation was too rushed and was setting the program up for failure.

“[We] were not given a voice,” teacher Stephanie Schindele said. “We are asking the board … for time. Time for shareholders to have a vote in this important decision. By excluding the people most impacted by this decision, they have been essentially disenfranchised. And as we as a district seek to build equity and inclusion, stifling the voices of these shareholders is unacceptable.”

Jennifer Taylor said in a brief discussion between some school staff and the central office staff about the dual language program, the question, “Why not now?” arose.

“Why not now?” she asked. “Because central office staff did not survey, meet with nor float this idea with the Mountlake Terrace families, community and family system – meaning all of us together at Mountlake Terrace – before making this decision.”

Taylor said community input is the most vital part of ensuring the program’s success, and she doesn’t want to see it be rushed into action and ultimately flop because it was not ready to be implemented.

“We are just asking for another year,” teacher Melanie Norris said. “We are on board. [It’s] brilliant. I’m really excited for it. We are behind the program; we are literally just begging for more time. This will serve our community better. This will make our staff feel like a part of the decision and part of how we can make this implementation the best that it can be.”

In other business, the board of directors unanimously approved a revised policy for students’ freedom of speech and received a legislative update regarding a board training activity.

The approved policy restores the press rights of student journalists, allowing them to tell the stories that matter to their communities without fear of punishment. Exceptions to the district’s new policy include libel, slander, unwarranted invasions of privacy, violation of laws or certain school policies or inciting students to create a clear and present danger of disruption of the orderly operation of the school.

— By Lauren Reichenbach

  1. One solid step toward safer schools is a “red button” rule: if ANY staff member, from janitor to receptionist, from teacher to administrator has ANY indication that there is a weapon on campus, he or she immediately hits the “red button” in whatever form it takes, and the school goes into a well-rehearsed, clear “DEFCON” mode. False alarm? Better than dead students and staff.

    The delay at EWHS could easily have caused a massacre. Plan a response, train everyone, make sure everyone knows the drill, be clear that a false alarm will not cause disciplinary action, and HIT THE BUTTON!

  2. My comment at the meeting was meant to put “on record” the information that MEN recently reported regarding this event & individual
    The response by Principal Larsen/Staff was negligent, in my opinion.
    It took 3 students reporting and 2 LONG hours for the Edmonds PD to be called to action.

    More importantly, my question to the School Board was “how did the Superintendent EVER approve this suspect/student to be accepted to EWHS based on his wearing an ankle monitor and TWO outstanding warrants for Armed Robbery in King County ?? “

    Reckless and negligent decision-making?
    How many others are among our unknowing students who fear the worst everyday?
    Why were the District codes that state that the Superintendent SHALL request information pertaining to history of violence/bad behavior AND can reject a transfer from outside the District if it would endanger the students and faculty, seemingly ignored?

    We are incredibly lucky that the EWHS incident did not become a mass shooting incident.

    The District needs to be transparent and come clean on how this individual was allowed in our District based on his violent history.

    Please join me for the next School Board Meeting on 11/22 at 6:30 PM! Speak up!

  3. We had armed guards patrolling the hallways where I went to high school in New York City and we did not have any shootings. The guards went out of their way to be friendly while stern and interacted with all of us on a regular basis, so it never felt strange or intrusive to have them there. They were just as much a part of our normal day as the folks dishing up lunch.

    It’s time to be more proactive and REALISTIC about keeping our kids safe. No more memorials.

  4. The Ingraham incident was horrible. The EWHS incident could have been. It is clear that, the EWHS gun carrying student should not have been in the school and the school was slow in responding to the threat.
    My daughters attended EWHS when there was a School Resource Officer, and although he would have been helpful in a crisis, more importantly he was able to avert crises . He got to know students and they trusted him. He was able to talk with students when issues occurred, and prevent escalation.
    I believe that a few students don’t feel safe around Police Officers, but I think that issue is surmountable with a true attempt to let those students get to know the officer.
    I don’t believe the Ingraham shooting occurred in a vacuum, and that the student who brought the gun to EWHS did it without reason, no matter how misguided.
    A Resource Officer is just one more way to prevent violence before it occurs.

  5. There should be metal detectors in ever school and cost should not be a question! No one student should loose their life in school.
    Also, we should be teaching our students about crime, violence, consequences and drugs. Our county has a huge problem with drugs and crime and we will never get ahead of this problem until we teach our students to be smarter about there decision making, how one time, one incident could ruin their lives and others. Teach them their are consequences for their actions. These are real life issues they all will have to face. Why do our schools only teach English, Math, History, Science? Lets teach our students about real life situations and how to deal with difficult situations! To make our future better we need to teach our students better. To survive we need our students to be street smart, not just book smart! How hard is is to get some Adult School Administrators to wake up and do something NOW to change how our schools are run.

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