JASON RANTZ

Rantz: School board members demanded Seattle not sweep homeless encampments from schools

Apr 5, 2021, 7:25 PM | Updated: Apr 7, 2021, 9:51 am

Members of the Seattle School Board demanded the mayor’s office not sweep dangerous and growing homeless encampments on two school properties.

In emails obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf stopped tried to stop Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office from sweeping encampments near Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill, and at Broadview Thomson K-8 in Bitter Lake.

Hampson demanded sweeps “never” occur in the city, including on school grounds. DeWolf empathically emailed the city, “this is not an ask for a sweep!”

Both encampments pose serious safety threats. The one at Meany Middle School has grown to over 40 tents as of Sunday morning. For students returning to school as part of Governor Jay Inslee’s school reopening order, the matter is urgent. Some students have already returned to campus.

Seattle School Board pushed back against sweeps

The two encampments at the center of security concerns have earned media attention for being housed on school property.

While encampments have been seldom cleared by the City of Seattle during the pandemic, the mayor’s office had grown increasingly concerned with the deteriorating situation near both schools ahead of their reopening. Inslee ordered schools at least partially reopened with hybrid in-person learning for grades K-6 by April 5.

In mid-march, a librarian and parent with the Seattle Public School district grew alarmed at the growing encampment at Miller Park on Capitol Hill, steps from the Meany Middle School campus. But the tents did not stay at the park. They now line the entrance to the school’s gym.

“Being a parent of a middle schooler and an employee who regularly walks by this to enter Meany, I am concerned for student safety,” the staffer wrote to the school board on March 18. “Middle school students coming from the south will walk through the encampment to get to school. If it is there when school starts, can the district provide extra adult supervision, before, during, and after school to ensure student safety?”

She included photos showing how bad the situation has gotten.

‘I do not believe in sweeps’

DeWolf forwarded the email to Mayor Jenny Durkan, Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller, and Seattle City Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda, Lorena Gonzalez, and Andrew Lewis. He asked for help, but expressed no interest in a sweep.

I want to state very clearly this is not an ask for a sweep! I do not believe in sweeps. People experiencing homelessness need housing and resources not traumatic sweeps of their livelihoods and belongings. I understand that the Council has allocated and assigned a lot of funding to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

BUT we do need some support — we are bringing students back to classrooms and school buildings/campuses in a matter of a few weeks. Do you have any ideas for how to help?

Concurrently in North Seattle, a group of neighbors around Broadview Thomson K-8 amplified similar concerns with the worsening homelessness crisis. They wrote a memo to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau. In it, the group warned that “the encampment poses a threat to the safety of the students and staff.”

They said they informed SPS nine months earlier, and were promised something would be done, but nothing happened. Instead, the encampment on the school property grew. They noted the increase of crime in the area as a result, provided extensive photo evidence of their concerns, and demanded a formal meeting to discuss their issues.

 A ‘surprise’ miscommunication

After days of conversations, the city expressed interest in sweeping the encampments. But members of the school board got in the way.

Board President Hampson published a joint statement on Facebook with DeWolf on March 28 to decry sweeping the encampments from school property. The statement claimed sweeps “are decidedly inhumane and irresponsibly set people struggling with homelessness further into the margins.”

“We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City,” they wrote.

Deputy Mayor Sixkiller responded in a sternly-worded email to Board President Hampson explaining he “was surprised to learn of your concerns” for the city’s plan to remove the encampments.

In the March 29 email, Sixkiller said the city shares her desire to help the homeless, noting that campers have all been offered shelter during sweeps. But he warned of waiting too much longer to address the issue:

…it has also been the City’s experience that despite days or sometimes weeks — even months — of advanced outreach some individuals do not accept offers of shelter until the posted day of removal, if at all. Unfortunately, many encampments are dangerous not only for children and the surrounding community but for the individuals living in the encampment.

Sixkiller said the city would continue its dialogue with the board.

Board president wants the city to clear paths — but not sweep?

After two days passed, Hampson followed up with an email response to Sixkiller to clarify the board’s position on the two encampments. The focus was on Meany due to its direct encroachment on campus.

Hampson wanted assistance to clear passages for students. She wrote on March 31, in part:

At Meany, we are asking for the City’s support in confirming the property boundaries between SPS and City property at Meany, so that SPS can place appropriate signs with respect to the permitted uses of its property. We are also asking for the City’s support in helping clear access to the school, and safe and healthy routes to and from the school.  Specific concerns include: tents and other belongings against the wall of the gym and near the walking path on the south end of the school, including a sleeping bag across the door to the gym; the porta potty on 21st Avenue immediately adjacent to the school, with discarded clothing and unsanitary conditions around it; and tents at the bottom of the stairs from the Parks and Rec parking lot down to Miller Playfield – a likely path to school for students coming down from 19th Avenue – where needles were visible.

If Hampson opposes sweeps, it’s not clear how these asks could be met.

Neither Hampson nor DeWolf responded to multiple emails requesting comment.

I think these kids are in danger

Some parents are keeping kids home from school because of this crisis. I don’t blame them. Hampson and DeWolf are using their positions on the school board to influence policy well beyond their expertise or responsibilities. They don’t think an encampment should ever be cleared? Too bad. It’s not their call. The city should move on this even if these two radical activists oppose it. There is shelter space available.

In just one visit to Meany Middle School on Sunday, a homeless man was muttering to himself while walking around with a metal pole. Do we want to see if he’ll turn violent with a child?

There were so many tents that I lost count after about 40. No one knows who is inside these tents. All we know is that they have repeatedly turned down offers of service according to multiple reports, and they’ve completely trashed the park.

Kids have suffered enough through this pandemic. They’re finally able to return to school and see their friends. They shouldn’t have to dodge tents, trash, and sketchy characters as part of their day.

Hampson and DeWolf’s stubborn, radical ideology may get kids hurt. But they seem to care more about keeping homeless in tents where they will never get help, than bringing them indoors and protecting kids. How ghoulish.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

seattle police, traffic stops...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: New equity policy bars Seattle Police from some traffic stops, opens door to more car theft

Seattle Police are now barred from many non-criminal traffic stops after activists claimed concerns over equity.
3 days ago
Sheriff Fortney...
KTTH staff

Snohomish County Sheriff Fortney will run for re-election after failed recall effort

After a failed recall effort against him last year, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney says he will run for office again in 2023.
4 days ago
MultiCare hospitals...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: MultiCare hospitals order symptomatic COVID-positive staff to see patients

MultiCare Health Systems is forcing COVID-positive staff to work at its area hospitals, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has learned.
5 days ago
Redistricting ,senator...
KTTH staff

State senator escorted out after not submitting negative COVID test

State Senator Phil Fortunato was escorted out of the Legislative building in Olympia because he had not submitted a required negative COVID test.
5 days ago
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, coronavirus...
KTTH staff

‘They never could figure me out’: Former King County Sheriff looks back on shortened tenure

Former King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht left office at the end of 2021, and spoke to KTTH's Jason Rantz Show this week to reflect on her tenure.
5 days ago
transgender, gender...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: WA laws now allow teen gender reassignment surgery without parental consent

Washington state now appears to allow minors to undergo life-changing gender reassignment surgery without parental consent.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Rantz: School board members demanded Seattle not sweep homeless encampments from schools