Garfield HS the focus of school safety precautions following nearby violence
Jun 6, 2023, 10:30 AM | Updated: 11:09 am
(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)
Update 8:00 a.m.
School safety was the topic of a closed-door meeting at Seattle’s Garfield High School Monday night at 7 p.m. Students, parents, and staff were invited to discuss with city and school district leaders the recent instances of gun violence and threats in the area.
“So whatever it takes, we should all agree the bottom line is keeping our kids safe and alive,” said Victoria Beach, SPD’s African-American Advisory Council Chair.
Additionally, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz told KIRO 7 he’s adding extra patrols to the area.
“Every round that is being fired creates trauma and so we want to make sure that we’re doing our part, providing extra security and emphasis in this area,” Diaz said.
Seattle’s Garfield High School and Nova High School both had their students return to campus in person Monday, according to an announcement from Garfield Principal Tarance Hart.
Hart locked down the campus Thursday and Friday last week due to increased incidents and threats of violence surrounding the school.
An increased presence of Seattle police officers accompanied the students’ return to the campuses.
“Over the week, SPS will support us in monitoring safety and security to determine the supports needed to close the school year,” Hart wrote in a press release. “The Seattle Police Department will be starting a patrol emphasis in the area to provide a police presence. They will assist in protecting public safety in the community, deter possible criminal activity, prevent violence, and address suspicious behavior.”
Last week, classes at Garfield High School were dismissed in the middle of a school day — with after-school activities also canceled — due to a threat to the school. Police investigated the incident while the school decided to shut down in-class learning for the following day, June 2. District officials have yet to confirm what the threat police were investigating was.
“You’ve got to ask yourself, who made that decision?” KTTH host Bryan Suits said on the verdict to close the campuses. “Again, this was not on campus. And then there’s (Attorney General) Bob Ferguson personally fast-walking the assault weapon ban through the Legislature. Assault weapons are not the weapon of choice in these random shootings. They tend to be unregistered handguns — 80% homemade kits or guns in the hands of someone with no legal right to possess them.”
In addition to the increased police presence, a community-based meeting is set for 7 p.m. June 5 at Garfield High School — something the Garfield High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) pushed for aggressively.
“We know the increase in violence in our community has raised concerns for students, families, and staff. [Seattle Public Schools] will be using this time to gather information, consult with partners, and work on measures to support our school,” Hart said in a prepared statement.
In just the last month, police have responded to three shootings around the campus: One occurring two blocks away, another four blocks away, and the third eight blocks away.
“The Seattle Police Department has been diligent in working closely with the Seattle School District to identify and address the ongoing disputes resulting in violence around Garfield High School,” the Seattle Police Department (SPD) wrote in its announcement to increase police foot traffic in the area. “The department will be starting a patrol emphasis in the area to provide police presence to assist in protecting public safety in the community, deter possible criminal activity, prevent violence, and address suspicious behavior seen and or reported.”
Additionally, earlier this year, District Superintendent Brent Jones formed an action team (that consists of Seattle Public School leaders, SPD, City of Seattle, and community groups and partners) in the aftermath of the shooting at Ingraham High School, which led to students walking out of classes throughout the region in response. SPD Chief Adrian Diaz has also made it a major emphasis to increase the availability of officers on public school campuses. He has previously called for the city to hire more officers and for Seattle Public Schools to restore programs like the “school resource officers” that used to be deployed on area campuses.
But staffing for the SPD continues to remain stagnant, as new numbers from Q1 2023 showed the department isn’t hiring as many officers as it had planned, despite an increased budget for recruitment. According to the report, the department wanted to hire 31 officers in the first quarter of 2023, but only brought on 26.
Since 2020, the department has lost 515 officers while hiring just 190. But, despite the bleak staffing statistics, Seattle is on pace for some of the lowest crime rates the city has recorded since the pandemic. 2023 is on pace for just 37 homicides in Seattle, compared to 52 last year, while aggravated assaults are on pace for slightly more than 2,100 this year — well below the 3,510 recorded in 2022.
In regards to the Central District and the specific neighborhood that houses Garfield High School, an estimated $8.4 million Garfield Super Block project is still in the works to transform the area’s public spaces with eight art pieces. The Duwamish, Jewish, African-American, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Italian communities are responsible for one piece each while the eighth and final commission is set to be a collaborative piece from all seven ethnic groups.