Families of the victims of last year’s Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting are demanding the release of district documents to find out if the tragedy on Oct. 24 could have been prevented.
They want to know if the shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, was allowed back in school early. He was suspended for fighting just a week before he opened fire on five classmates.
To that end, attorney Ann Deutscher, who represents the families of Gia Soriano, Nate Hatch, Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, and Andrew Fryberg, has requested ten years worth of documents spelling out bullying and discipline policies, as well as reports of bullying.
She says although she made her request in March, the district and the law firm it has retained have not released the information.
Representatives from law firm Patterson, Buchanan, Fobes, and Leitch dispute that, saying they’ve provided current policies, but that finding, redacting, and releasing the rest of the information could take up to a year.
The families hope the documents will reveal more about a fight that took place the week before the shooting between Fryberg and another player on the school football team after practice.
Though Deutscher says Fryberg was suspended, it’s not clear for how long. She also wonders if the suspension may have been lifted in order for Fryberg to attend the homecoming game, where he was crowned prince.
“And we think they [the documents] ought to be provided within the next 10 days, in full. And we can’t think of a good reason,” said Deutscher, “nor is there a good reason why they haven’t been and why they shouldn’t be provided.”
Deutscher says that while no lawsuit is in the works, she won’t rule out legal action to get the information she’s requested from the district.
Besides getting answers, Bryan Soriano, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gia, was killed in the shooting, wants an apology.
“I think one of the things that really hasn’t even been mentioned yet is the gun. The gun is really a sore spot with me. I just feel like the dad whose gun it was seems to take no liability whatsoever. His lawyer has mentioned it, I’ve seen it on TV where he’s mentioning the dad of the shooter had nothing to do with the shooting,” Soriano said.
Raymond Fryberg was convicted of buying the handgun used in the shooting illegally. He stored it, loaded, in his car. His son, Jaylen, took it and opened fire on five friends in the high school cafeteria during lunch, killing four students before turning the gun on himself.
“I know if I had a gun and my child took it to school and did what he did, I would feel terrible and I would be apologizing for it,” said Soriano. “He’s done nothing. The guy just thinks he’s above the law.”
Meanwhile, Marysville-Pilchuck High School has made changes. They’ve used federal grant money to add three more school resource officers and put in place a curriculum that teaches students how to spot a friend suffering from mental illness and get them help.
But Deutscher says it’s not enough.
“To us, it’s window dressing. Those programs are not programs that are proven, historically, to have a big impact,” Deutscher said.
She’d like to see a peer mediation program separate from the curriculum to teach students about problem solving and how to help each other. Deutscher says Marysville-Pilchuck administrators rejected that suggestion.
Denise Hatch, whose son Nate is the cousin of the shooter and who was the sole survivor of the tragedy, agreed the school should do more. But, she says it’s hard for her to say what.
“Just making the school safer so this doesn’t happen again,” said Hatch. “What has [sic] other schools done to make their schools safer, and to make their kids feel more safe and at ease so they can get their education without fear in the back of their mind. Because this ain’t going away. Every day, it’s a reminder to all these kids at MP, as well as the staff.”
As for her son, Nate, he had to put school on hold while he endured half a dozen surgeries to recover from being shot in the face. Although he started classes again at an unknown school and has been cleared to start playing sports again, he has a daily reminder of the shooting that took the lives of two of his cousins and three of his close friends.
“He has three more surgeries that are necessary, but he needs to grow – he’s still growing – before he can have those additional surgeries,” Deutscher said. “So I think one of the things that I think that’s probably very painful for Nate is that he obviously was shot in the face. And he bears the scars of that. That can’t be fixed for a period of time because they can’t be done until he grows more. So, every time he looks in the mirror, he’s reminded.”