The Edmonds School District will change the way it responds to incidents with weapons after the recent gun arrest at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab said the district will revise its policies to get police involved in the investigations sooner than it did at Edmonds-Woodway.
“Yes, generally speaking we will involve the police where there might be a weapon,” Schwab said, adding “we want to involve law enforcement.” That means bringing them into the investigation sooner, Schwab said.
On Sept. 29, administrators at Edmonds-Woodway called 911, saying they had reports that a 15-year-old student had brought a gun to class. Within four minutes, officers arrived at the school, then set up a plan to keep the class safe and arrested the teen. They found a loaded Glock 27 pistol on the student, hidden in the waist band of his shorts. No one was hurt; the teen has been charged and is being held at the Denney Youth Justice Center on $800,000 bail. The teen, who transferred to Edmonds-Woodway from Lynnwood High this year, is a suspect in two first-degree robberies, both of which involve possession of a gun.
Schwab said Edmonds-Woodway was never told about these charges and only knew that he was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle.
The next day, Edmonds police, the mayor and a school district representative called a news conference to praise a “very brave student who reported the weapon on campus to a staff member,” adding that, “This instance is a wonderful example of something that could have gone terribly wrong but didn’t.”
The school also sent a letter to parents to reassure them: “Our school safety system works best when people who see something say something, which is how we were alerted in this instance.”
But that is not the whole story. People who saw something, did say something – two hours before the arrest.
This probable cause court document confirms that “earlier that morning,” two students went to administrators “concerned that the respondent (suspect) had a gun at school.” The district confirmed that at about 11 a.m., these students did alert staff. The court document continues: The students “showed staff messages from the respondent asking one of them to hold his gun for him because he was concerned he was going to be searched.”
Assistant Superintendent Schwab said that what the students passed on was “very non-specific… but enough information to give the school cause to bring in the suspect and talk to him.” Those two students, added Schwab, “did not say they had seen the gun; there was no indication of any kind of a threat to the school.”
The student was called to the office, his backpack was searched, nothing was found, and he was allowed to go back to class. Schwab responded that, “the student was very cooperative, volunteered to show us his backpack; nothing about that initial search raised a red flag.”
The court documents then show that one of the students who made the initial report got back in touch with staff, saying “they saw the respondent with a gun at school the previous day.”
But the school took no further action until about 1 p.m. That’s when a third student came to administrators and told them that the suspect “told him that they (school staff) hadn’t found ‘it’ because he had ‘it’ near his waist/crotch area.” The documents say the student believed the suspect was talking about a gun.
It was then — at 1:11 p.m. — that the school called 911.
I asked why — after the two early reports about a gun — the student was not kept in the office and police called then to further check his story? “This is a ‘we can look back and say hindsight is a 20-20’ moment,” said Schwab. “We made a judgment call.”
But he agrees this incident shows “some things we need to improve across our system and practices.” Schwab said staff is not trained to do pat-down or body searches, and he questioned what a staffer would do if they found a gun. Would they try to struggle with a suspect – again, something they are not trained to do.
But the bottom line, said Schwab, is that “we should call and bring in the police and let them assist us; (that) should be part of the decision as we move forward.”
— By Bob Throndsen