Within a span of just 11 hours, there were five unrelated shootings in South Seattle last week. One occurred at Garfield High School. A second injured a 15-year-old girl and involved another teen just a block away from Aki Kurose Middle School.
The violence is nothing new for South Seattle. It prompted extra police patrols near at least four schools in the district, according to a police source. Seattle Public Schools (SPS) said it would increase school security, too.
But none of this would be as necessary had SPS not banned school resource officers from campuses in 2020. Given the uptick in violence — not just gun violence, but physical assaults — you would think the district is rethinking its decision. But it’s not.
Principals, meanwhile, may not wait for the district to act. There are rumors circulating that principals at some Seattle schools will demand a return to school resource officers.
The latest school shootings occurred last Thursday at Garfield High School and Friday near Aki Kurose Middle School.
Witnesses heard gunfire around 4:30 p.m. and saw teenagers fleeing the scene at Garfield. Officers found two sets of shell casings on campus. Police say this likely indicates two people exchanged gunfire. Police say they found evidence of at least three dozen shots fired.
Luckily, no one was hurt — this time. But it’s hard to imagine students or staff getting lucky again.
Hours later, around 3:30 a.m., there was a shooting one block from Aki Kurose Middle School. Police say they found “a 15-year-old girl with gunshot wounds to her legs inside a stolen, bullet-riddled Jeep.”
“The injured girl, and another teenage girl in the car, were evasive about the circumstances of the shooting, but police found more than two dozen rounds had been fired at a shooting scene several blocks away,” police said in a blotter post. “Officers found a gun near the scene, and a ski mask and bulletproof vest in the stolen Jeep. Police also found a large stack of cash, with an apparent hole from a bullet.”
In the wake of the anti-police Black Lives Matter and Antifa movement, SPS left its students vulnerable. The district severed ties with the Seattle Police Department.
The move came after the SPD and the National Guard used school property, on a weekend, to stage vehicles and personnel ahead of a planned riot. The SPS superintendent at the time, Denise Juneau, was livid.
“[Seattle Public Schools] did not give permission, nor condone the use of our property for staging militarized police or military personnel or vehicles,” Juneau wrote in a letter to the community. “I have contacted [Seattle police] and informed them they may not use our space in this way and have been assured it will not happen again.”
At the time of the announcement, SPS said it would kick SPD School Emphasis Officers and School Resource Officers off-campus unless there was an emergency. Well, there have been plenty of emergencies.
SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson acknowledged that SPD had an increased presence at Garfield High School last Thursday and Friday.
“Now we’ve been ordered, per the command staff, to hang around and do heavy premise checks near schools,” Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
One source with the SPD explained the increased patrols also extended to other schools that apparently have seen some kind of violence: Franklin, Rainier Beach, South Lake, and Cleveland high schools. Neither SPS nor SPD would confirm.
Gwendolyn Jimerson of the Seattle Education Association celebrated the decision to boot cops from campus.
“The message that we want to send to our Black, our indigenous, and our people of color students are that we are here, we are there, and that we support them and their fears and their anxieties around the police,” she told KING 5.”We have educators who are not really feeling comfortable around police, in general, so we want people to know that we see what’s going on now.”
Apparently, these educators feel comfortable dodging bullets near campus. As usual, the bullets aren’t coming from police.
Violence seems to have escalated this year at Seattle schools. Some involve students, and others do not.
In August, there was a shooting at Aki Kurose Middle School. A 14-year-old alleged shooter left a 17-year-old to die in the street. Officers and medics were able to save the child.
Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary also saw a shooting in a parking lot in June. There were two gunshot victims — both survived.
Police were recently called after a Seattle public high school student made repeated bomb and shooting threats to two local high schools. At Rainier Beach High School, a juvenile victim was pepper-sprayed by strangers nearby.
And on campus, schools have reported a rash of fights.
It’s not uncommon for police to be called to Franklin High School. In September, SPD says it sent a “large police presence” to campus after a series of escalating fights.
“It was believed there could be a retaliation fight involving a large number of students stemming from an incident that occurred the day prior,” an incident report said.
The SPS spokesperson says the district is not reconsidering the ban on police.
“At this time, there is nothing on an upcoming agenda about the issue,” Robinson said via email.
It’s unclear what it will take to reconsider. How many more shootings or fights have to take place for SPS to stop pretending it’s police officers that are the threat on campus? How many fights would be prevented if students knew an officer was on campus and could react quickly?
Principals in Seattle may be ready to act.
Three police sources said they’ve heard that some principals are fed up with the violence. They may publicly ask SPS to reconsider its ban on police on campus. Given the anti-police sentiment shared by outspoken students and the school board, a hard push may be politically untenable for the principals.
Nevertheless, the SPD faces historically low staffing. It can take well over eight minutes to respond to an emergency on a school campus. When every second in emergencies count, perhaps the anti-police voices could look at this issue with logic and reason.
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