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Spanaway Lake High School
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Racial tensions, fights erupt at Spanaway Lake High School

Spanaway Lake High School. (Bethel School District)

Rising racial tensions among students at Spanaway Lake High School has prompted the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office to post deputies at the school to prevent further violence.

“We want this thing to ramp down before it ramps up,” said Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

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Troyer said that a sexual assault was reported about a week ago. That case has been investigated and forwarded to the prosecutor’s office. But the incident has sparked a conflict between groups of black and Samoan students. The two groups have generally gotten along, but have recently become confrontational along race lines at the high school about 12 miles south of Tacoma.

“What we do know is that last week, we had a reported sexual assault,” Troyer said. “That’s been investigated and sent to the prosecutor’s office. Since then there has been some retaliation; an assault where somebody was thrown into a window. Unfortunately, it’s escalated to the point where we believe we have about 50 people involved. They’ve lined up on race lines of Samoan and black. It’s a mutual, combative situation at this point. We are not holding anybody accountable for causing it at this point. We just want it to end.”

Troyer says that the violent incident when a person was thrown into a window happened at the school Tuesday. There have been multiple fights in the school and the surrounding area, he says, including students and family members. A spokesperson for Spanaway Lake High School said that they would not comment on any racial tensions at the school. They did say that there was a recent fight and that the school was placed in lockdown as a result on Tuesday.

“The situation is ongoing,” Troyer said. “We are working with the schools and we are making it perfectly clear that a lot of people could be in trouble here. This is the wrong time of year for students to be kicked out of school with graduation coming … let us handle the people that have done anything bad and don’t retaliate because all that’s going to do is get people into more trouble, more people kicked out of school, and more people possibly arrested.”

Spanaway Lake High School

Sage Arnold is a student at Spanaway Lake High School. She says that arrests were made on Tuesday and that police were present at the school all day Wednesday.

“So there were two fights at lunch and then another fight later that day from what I know,” she said.

“No one is really sure why these fights are happening, but word is going around that it’s a racial thing,” Arnold said. “There have always been fights around our school, but nothing has been quite this large.”

Arnold was in a hallway Tuesday when she saw one student chased by a mob.

“I was sitting in the hallway during second lunch and all of a sudden, down the hallway, this larger white boy was running down the hallway toward the office, and behind him was this mob of 50 kids,” she said. “They were crowding in front of the office. Apparently, somebody had hopped inside of the attendant’s widow and there was a fight going on inside of the office which was apparently very brutal because all the security guards and staff started coming out. And we were all told to wait in the cafeteria.”

Arnold said the school has not provided any information about what has been happening to students or parents. She just knows that there “have been a lot of police officers around the school.” She said that students have been told that if the fighting doesn’t stop there will be arrests, but they have not been told why the fighting is happening.

“This morning my counselor told me ‘If there’s a riot that happens you better run into that office fast enough before I lock it,” Arnold said.

“It’s quite dangerous, actually,” she said. “All the clubs are being canceled. No one is allowed to stay after (class) or come before.”

Principal responds

School officials have not spoken with KIRO Radio. Principal Julieta Baublits sent this statement to parents Wednesday evening, May 2, 2018:

You may have heard on the news, or from your student, that there is tension between two groups of students at Spanaway Lake High School. This is the result of allegations surrounding an incident that took place last week that is still being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department.

Although we expect an uneventful day tomorrow, we want to assure you that additional deputies will be present at Spanaway Lake High School to offer their support to our students and staff. There will also be additional staff at the building and we encourage students who have information they want to share, to share it with a trusted adult.

We are also calling on parents to help with this situation. There is a lot of misleading, angry and simply wrong information online that stems from this situation. I’m asking you to talk with your students about what they are reading and posting online.

The expectation is that we’re going to have a positive, productive day at Spanaway Lake High School tomorrow.

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