Rantz: Seattle Public Schools lies to state, tries to keep deadly homeless encampment intact
A staff member at Seattle’s Broadview-Thomson K-8 filed a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries over the dangerous encampment on Seattle Public Schools property. The complaint notes the encampment poses a safety hazard because of weapons, drugs, and violence.
SPS responded by claiming they’re unaware of “any credible reports indicating weapons, drugs, or fighting present” at Broadview-Thomson school grounds. It even claimed that SPS hasn’t “permitted or authorized camping on its property.”
These statements are willfully misleading and delivered in bad faith. They’re also verifiable lies. SPS is attempting a disingenuous game of semantics to keep the encampment on district property. L&I must reject this transparent strategy for the safety of children, staff, and the homeless.
Seattle Public Schools is willfully misleading L&I
The encampment is steps away from Broadview-Thomson’s playground. The school district owns the land, and they refuse to sweep it. The school board, run by progressive activist Chandra Hampson, argues sweeps are inhumane. It puts homeless people in temporary housing, like hotel rooms or tiny home villages, rather than permanent housing. It’s apparently compassionate to keep the homeless living outside in filth, without access to electricity, running water, clean clothes, or a bed.
Word has spread that the homeless can live at the encampment consequence-free. Consequently, the encampment has grown to well over 40 tents.
It’s become a hotbed of criminal activity, with fights regularly breaking out, sightings of suspected prostitutes, and rampant drug use. The school has twice gone on lockdown, resulting in significant police response, including after a weapon was spotted by school security.
Any reasonable person looks at the situation and understands it’s dangerous. The SPS staffer responding to the complaint, however, is not reasonable. He’s downright dishonest and is doing the bidding of an ideologically driven school board.
A game of bad faith semantics
In a letter to L&I, SPS acknowledges they own the land where the encampment is growing. But they try to get out of responsibility for what’s happening.
Benjamin Coulter, the Assistant Manager of Safety and Security at SPS, claimed to L&I that they’re unaware of any of the concerns over weapons, drugs, and violence “on school grounds.”
Coulter claims that it does not count as being “on school grounds” because a small fence separates the campus from the encampment. This is a disingenuous argument. SPS is still responsible for the hazardous and dangerous situations at the encampment — especially since it directly impacts the campus.
School officials locked the fence because of the encampment. This means one of the normal entryways to the school, through the school owned-property, is now blocked off. It was a de facto school grounds because it is school property used to get on and off-campus.
The fence has also been breached at least once, forcing the school to place a tarp over it. The school also went on lockdown because of a suspected intruder suspected to be from the encampment. And the security guard was on campus when he called in a gun sighting from the encampment.
And in a May 21, 2021, letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, the new SPS Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones admitted that, while rare, the green space is used by the school. That makes it school grounds by SPS’s definition.
“It also should be noted that the district has not at any time permitted or authorized camping on its property,” Coulter sloppily explains.
Except, it does. All but two tents are on district property. Coulter even submitted a map to L&I showing as much.
A distinction without a difference
To avoid clearing the encampment, SPS creates a meaningless distinction between “school grounds” and “property owned by the district.”
It’s a distinction without a difference: The school grounds are property owned by the district. They are the same thing. Broadview-Thomson is district-owned property. It does not exist in a bubble on its own.
The hazard exists and it impacts the school directly (especially given there have been two lockdowns within weeks of one another). The only reason the encampment hasn’t been cleared is a policy by the school board prohibiting sweeps.
SPS has no comment as the district puts student, staff lives on the line
When the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH asked an SPS spokesperson to comment on claims made in the letter, a spokesperson for SPS referred back to the letter itself.
“Mr. Coulter’s response to L&I serves as our statement,” Rachel Nakanishi emailed.
In other words, they cannot defend what’s in the letter.
Students and staff are living on borrowed time. It’s why staff are now joining the chorus of voices begging for the district to respond.
“Our number one priority is the safety of our students, and while we want the best for the people in the encampment, we first need to fight for the safety of our students,” special education instructional assistant Alison Hart told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
Hart noted that students are afraid of the encampment.
There will be a serious incident that harms someone on campus — or worse. It’s inevitable, and the warning signs are there. It’s just too bad that SPS is willing to sacrifice a student or staff member to virtue signal some misguided political position on the city’s homelessness strategy.
Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook.