SPS responds to parents’ questions about dangerous weapons at school

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SEATTLE — As students get underway with a new school year, some parents at Seattle Public Schools still have questions about the consequences of bringing dangerous weapons on campus.

“I do feel anxious,” parent Make Gallitelli said. “I mean, you can’t help the memories that you get back right of the beginning of the year.”

Gallitelli said it took hours to reunite with her daughter after the deadly shooting at Ingraham High School last year.

Now she wants clarity and change.

“I’m concerned,” she said.

She’s concerned about what’s in a report from a company called Setracon.

KIRO 7 obtained the “Ingraham High School Incident Analysis” sent in January to Ingraham’s principal and an SPS assistant superintendent. It pointed out that the accused shooter brought “a fixed-blade knife and a BB gun, replicating a Glock-style pistol” to school several weeks before the incident.

“The BB gun and a knife was not made public,” she said. “A kid that brings a BB gun to school can blow up another kid’s eyes. A knife can kill. So a kid that is bringing that should not be in school.”

That report stated, “We noted that some policies are not being followed—specifically, the disciplinary policy.”

“I believe all our findings are that we did follow disciplinary policy,” Fred Podesta, Seattle Public Schools Chief Operating Officer, said.

“What is the consequence if a student brings a BB gun or knife to school?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon said.

“Each disciplinary case is handled on a 1 to 1 basis,” he said. “There’ll be a risk assessment done and appropriate actions will be taken.”

“So are families notified if a dangerous weapon is found in a school?” Sheldon asked.

“If there’s a need to notify families that we think there’s a broader security threat or just that they need to know because something happened, those are handled on a case-by-case basis.”

“There’s not a policy that a family gets notified if there’s a dangerous weapon?” Sheldon asked.

“There’s not a hard and fast policy for every hypothetical,” Podesta said.

Discipline is one part of the picture.

Mental health is another.

Dr. Rocky Torres is the Associate Superintendent of Schools and Student Supports. He said this year, students are getting more social and emotional lessons in classes, access to more social workers, and what used to be considered a discipline hotline is now a behavioral health consultation line.

“If a student is demonstrating a behavior, what is the actual route there?” he said. “Is there discipline, support that is needed? Is there behavior, health support? Is there a combination of both that is needed? And that’s available to anyone in our system from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every school day.”

Gallitelli said it’s about SPS acting on what it’s learned.

“So that we do everything we can to avoid another death in a school,” she said.

SPS sent KIRO 7 News a statement after the interview, which stated in part, “Staff properly followed all applicable state discipline laws and SPS policies at Ingraham High School, which permit a range of responses that consider the unique factors underlying each student’s behavior. Depending on the individual student, these factors may include prior discipline, other forms of discipline, behavioral and mental health supports, and special education issues.”

And about Setracon, which did the report, it said, “While this company has substantial expertise in security systems, it is not an expert in the field of student discipline.”

School districts around Western Washington say improving safety is a constant effort.

For example, in Federal Way Schools this year, all schools have safety enhancements like fencing and cameras. It’s an effort that was completed last year

In Kent schools, the district is increasing electronic access control locks and if a levy is approved this fall, the district will upgrade intrusion alarm systems in every school.

In the Northshore School District, its final school is expected to get security cameras this winter.

In Everett Public Schools, the district is implementing “Run-Hide-Fight” training for all staff and will be holding community meetings about adding security fencing to the two remaining schools that don’t have it.

The Bethel School District added 3M Protective Window Film to a high school and elementary school and will be adding it to another high school soon.

The Edmonds School District will complete several fencing projects around some of its older buildings.

Tacoma Public Schools added new camera devices, intercom systems, and entry-card badge readers to 18 schools last year.

The Puyallup School District is installing vestibules, which add another layer of protection by requiring people to be buzzed in, to 10 more schools.

The Lake Washington School District is reallocating unspent dollars from its SRO budget to behavioral health because, the district said, partner agencies weren’t able to staff all the budgeted positions. That money replaces an expiring grant that allowed the district to expand from half-time to full-time behavioral health specialists at its middle schools and choice high schools.