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 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