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Monday, June 04, 2012

Updates

 Update: a simple and beautiful tribute by Town Hall to Gloria Leonidas (the woman killed there last week during the rampage).  Ms. Leonidas' profession was lighting design.  I thought it worthy of posting.  Thank you to the Stranger Slog for their posting of it.

The story of the killer's saga in West Seattle just goes on.  The West Seattle Blog is reporting that the blueberry plant he picked up at the West Seattle Nursery went to a former teacher he had at Summit K-12 more than 25 years ago.  Unbelievable.   He did not leave a note so she had no idea who had left it until she read about it.  She does not know why he reached out to her and turned everything over to the police.

One comment says:
The reason that I find this new update extremely alarming is that it confirms that this killer was in the neighborhood of Schmitz Park, Lafayette, Madison and West Seattle High, possibly even as the security precautions were lifted around 2:00 so that students could be released at the normal hour. It’s possible that Stawicki was in direct proximity of students who were released from school to walk home. If any students had been hurt by this madman, the district would have faced enormous liability, especially given the haphazard nature in which the district handled the decision-making and communication regarding student safety in this situation. Thankfully, no SPS students were hurt by Stawicki, but the district has a lot to answer for, and had better learn from this for any future incidents.

Then this from another commenter:

Thankfully, no SPS students were hurt by Stawicki, so what does the district have to answer for? And we all can learn from this for any future incidents that may or may not happen. It seems like people want to blame the school district for something, anything, even when nothing happens. So tiresome.

Clearly, this person doesn't realize the "thankfully" does not go to the district but to luck.  It's not luck that any parent should depend on for the safety of their child at school.  The district may not have known the extent of the killer's roaming but they knew he was still at large and had a car while in West Seattle. 

I am stunned at the number of people who say "nothing happened" at Lowell, at Lafayette and now in West Seattle during a crime crisis and shrug.  I just don't think if it were your child, you would be quite that blase (either that or you have faith in a higher source).

Lafayette Update:
It seems at least one parent is challenging the investigation report.  This is a parent of one of the children questioned by the principal.  The principal, as you may recall, maintains she didn't know the parent was the child's parent (and that the parent had a different last name than the child).   As it turns out, that parent sat in the outer office with all the rest of the children (who knew her as the child's mother) while the principal questioned the children, one by one, including her own.

What is more serious is that the district apparently did not interview all the parents.  In fact, one parent was given interview dates and two of them were for AFTER the report came out.  So the parent had zero opportunity to give her input.

A little shoddy on the district's part.  That this investigation was so quick (compared to the year-long slog that was Lowell's) seems to show the district can't decide HOW to do an investigation.  (And the district chose to hire an outside investigator for the Lowell incident but not the Lafayette incident.  I have to wonder what an outside investigator might have done differently.)

What is also interesting is that the PTA leadership does not want seem to want to have any discussion about the issue.  Now I can see not getting into specifics - it does no good - but to issues like when/how children are questioned, parents are notified, boundaries, parents visiting classrooms, etc., I do think it IS the PTA's issue.

If not the parent-sanctioned body at a school, then who do parents go to for answers?  The PTA leadership seems to think the parents should go to the district or the Board (and we know the Board is NOT the right place, either).   I am troubled by how PTAs seem to becoming fund-raising machines and little else. 

This is certainly my opinion and if you have a different one, I'd be interested in your take and particularly the reasoning behind it.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just saw Charlie's comment on Reuven Carlyle's blog. You always make me smile. Which I had your artistry with words and logic.

n...

Anonymous said...

Wish I . . .

Dang!

n...

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I should speak to the issue:

Sometimes I do think we ask too much of people and institutions who have little experience with such matters. Hopefully, we will learn from these events and do better. This kind of tragedy is new territory . . .

Will we have to go into District-wide lockdown every time there is a shooting somewhere? Yes, the District obviously needs to have immediate information from police - not media. They need to know whatever is relevant to student dismissals.

If a child had been caught in the middle, it would have been tragic. But it is not a perfect world. We all need to demand that communication systems between police and schools is increased and that schools have a central authority that keeps all schools websites active and current during emergencies.

Re Lowell: Teachers are asked to attend all kinds of classes and meetings on protocols and handling difficult situations. Perhaps administrative personnel need to attend of few of those classes! But I have to add: will there come a time when no one wants to be in education because of all the mines lying below the surface? As long as humans are in charge, it will never be perfect.

n...

mirmac1 said...

Well, until parent groups are viewed as partners, not merely ATMs, we will continue to invite marginalization.

So, explanations about events that impact students (handling of investigations and discipline) and teachers DO MATTER to parents. For example, WHY are so many great teachers being forced out of their jobs? Why are there no counselors to help with crucial issues like bullying and harassment? Who ULTIMATELY are the transgressors answerable to? Bree Dusseault? our interim supt in absentia? "instructional leaders" with little knowledge or background in instruction, state law, and civil rights?

Okay, I gotta stop now. Biting off more than I can chew.

Melissa Westbrook said...

How is this territory? We have seen nearly every kind of murder and mass murder in this country. We cannot cover every single situation but could we have updates at the website?

Anonymous said...

The PTA has done a great job. The PTA has pushed district leaders to give clarification and has communicated with parents as far as it is able-- readers should please realize that ALL children/families involved are PTA / community members. It is not the PTA's role to take a position on such things. Instead, the PTA has been pushing district leaders to communicate, which is its role, and has been supporting NEW leadership. Please give the benefit of the doubt to this community and PTA.

PTA Parent

suep. said...

I agree that the role of the PTA has become very murky. At the state level it has become highly political and apparently bought by ed reform interests. At the school level, it does seem to be about fundraising and blindly cheerleading for the school, in some cases, to the point of failing to address serious problems within.

I disagree with anyone who says that “nothing happened” at Lowell or Lafayette. At Lafayette, it sounds like some kids were traumatized and improperly questioned and a principal demonstrated serious ignorance of protocol. At Lowell, longtime staff members were harassed and mistreated by school ‘leadership,’ at least one to the point of resigning, plus many teachers left as a result of this toxic atmosphere. Lies were said by principals, protocols not followed, and the safety of children was compromised. In the end, the two principals at Lowell were given little more than a hand-slap by the district and allowed to keep their jobs even though they have been officially found guilty of “misconduct.” One would think the school’s PTA would care about these serious issues and would demand new leadership with sound judgment and unquestionable integrity.

One would think.

As for the horrific events of last week, I called my child’s school when I heard on the radio that the gunman was at large and was told that because he was “headed north” it wasn’t deemed necessary to take any extra measures in Wallingford. We all know now that this information was wrong, the gunman headed south and west and covered a lot of ground near many schools.

The lesson from this should clearly be that when a murderous gunman is at large ANYWHERE in Seattle, the school district should issue an all-points bulletin to all schools with as many facts as it has, and the order to secure all schools and be on high alert.

All in all, SPS plays fast and loose with safety in our kids’ schools in so many ways it’s shocking.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sue P that the District does have to consider any event a district-wide event. To be safe.

Also, I've changed my mind regarding my take on their preparedness to handle it. I think - let me know if I'm wrong - that this sort of thing isn't necessarily new in some of our more diverse or less prosperous areas. There are neighborhoods that have endured gun fire. Being a northender, I hadn't considered our relatively safe neck of the woods until now. This is a wake-up call. So I think the District has had time to prepare communication strategies. They should have been on top of this. They've got some work to do.

n...

Dorothy Neville said...

This isn't new in the north end. Remember the manhunt after the boatyard shooting? 1999? Bryant sheltered in place then.

Also, when my son attended Lowell they had lockdown drills. Nine, ten years ago.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No one is saying the PTA should have taken a position. But helping to provide information and act as a go-between for that information from district to parents? Yes, that is their job.

The Times provided a scattermap of where people have been killed this year. It looks if you live in Laurelhurst/View Ridge, Ballard/Magnolia/Queen Anne, you are pretty safe. The rest of the city? Not so much.

Safety is for everyone everywhere. This shooting was not about gangs; it was about a person with mental issues and that person could be anyone, anywhere in this city.

As for issues about natural disasters, a couple of things.

1) when I was on the PTA Board at Eckstein, we realized the district could only do so much. There are earthquake kits at every school but what is the plan? At Eckstein we got a large storage container and put equipment for makeshift toilets, some food/water and some warm clothing. We realized an eartquake could happen when kids were in PE and in shorts. If they had to stay outside after an event, they would get cold. We also realized if the entire school had to leave the building, they would need toilets. The kids would have to stay in place for at least a couple of hours (maybe longer if parents couldn't get to them).

2) It is just my personal belief but after Katrina, I don't believe the feds will come and help in any big way. Or rather, I certainly won't count on it. We are fortunate to have a City and County that has a plan and regular drills.

However I don't know what the district's plan is nor do I know if every single school has a plan about what to do if they have to leave their building. The kids sit on the playground and then....?

3) How do schools report issues during a natural disaster? What would the district be able to do anyway? How would kids be released? If you had a notice in the office saying your child, in case of an emergency, could be released to Parent X (who lives nearby and is an at-home parent), your child could leave with that adult.

4) What have you told your kids about what to think or do during a emergency at school like a natural disaster? At my son's preschool, we had a kit with the necessities along with a favorite book and a photo of family so the child would not feel disconnected.

Do you have a family plan about how to find each other in a natural disaster? Where would be your central meeting plan if Dad's downtown, Mom's at work in the north end and the child is at school? Also, FYI, cell phones are unlikely to work well and the local system will jam up. Have an out-of-state person to call and have everyone try to check in with that person. Your odds are better to be able to do that than contact each other locally.

It's worth thinking about.

mirmac1 said...

Our neighborhood had a well-organized plan and ran the occasional drill. Back then, the city had a more robust emergency preparedness program. Now, because of budget constraints, it is more hands off. Their emphasis IS on communication. Basically, they advise that every neighborhood have shortwave radio capability (cell service? Don't count on it). So, do schools have this? If not, do they talk to anybody at the city?

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