Dear Seattle Schools families and community,
We continue to share in the nation’s collective grief following the Florida school shooting. Student safety is essential. Seattle Schools put in place extensive safety procedures, and we will be reviewing those to do even more.
Preventing gun violence in schools
However, no amount of money, staff or equipment will protect us from bad laws. We believe enough is enough, and now is the time for action. Legislation is desperately needed to protect our students now.
Today, the school board approved a resolution calling for lawmakers to increase student safety by:
- Raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21
- Implementing enhanced background checks for purchasing assault weapons
- Banning the purchase and sale of “assault” or semi-automatic rifles and of any accessories designed to increase a gun’s rate of fire
- Eliminating private gun sale loopholes
- Providing funding for thorough gun violence research
- Supporting prevention, intervention and community re-entry programs that reduce community and gun violence
The resolution also makes it clear that we are against any effort to arm our educators.
We have been moved by the tremendous courage and activism of students across our country and in Seattle. They no longer trust that adults will make the best school safety decisions. We must do all we can to prevent more lives from being lost to gun violence.
Several national and local events are scheduled over the coming weeks. We encourage citywide participation in the student-led March for Our Lives Seattle rally and walk at 10 AM on Saturday, March 24. We can show our unified support for safe schools and the Seattle students who are organizing this non-school day march.
There are other student-led events scheduled to happen during school hours. National organizers are calling for 17 minutes of action/activity on Wednesday, March 14 to commemorate the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida. Schools may hold different activities, ranging from assemblies to classroom lessons to moments of silence. Students in some schools may choose to walk out in a more visible means of protest.
Although we support students’ First Amendment rights, we encourage students to remain on campus: first because of safety; second because state law requires such absences to be unexcused. If students do leave campus, staff will observe in an attempt to keep students safe but will not be leading the event.
We will work with school leaders to support student voices while maintaining a safe and orderly school environment. Read more about Seattle’ approach to student civic engagement and protest rights.
Actions families can take
Talk to your students about this issue that is gripping our nation. Talk about whether you as a family wish to engage in this conversation and how best to do that: through one of these walks or by personally engaging with lawmakers on this important issue. Contact your state and federal legislators to share your thoughts. You can identify your state and federal representatives by visiting www.leg.wa.gov and selecting the “Find Your District” link.
There is an average of one school shooting per week across our nation. Until school shootings are nonexistent, we must all be engaged in finding better solutions. We believe that students should come to school to develop their love of learning. They need to be planning for their future not fearing for their future or worrying if their school will be the scene of the next national tragedy.
We know Seattle Schools families and staff will have different perspectives on gun control. We welcome thoughtful, solutions-based dialogue from our school community focused on how we can accomplish what all of us want: safe, peaceful schools.
Dr. Larry Nyland Leslie S. Harris
Superintendent School Board President
Actions we are taking to keep your child safe
Safety is our top priority. The most important thing that we do to protect student safety is to create a sense of welcome and belonging for our students. For the past two years we have worked in partnership with our educator union (SEA) and our principals (PASS) to do districtwide training on how we can ensure that we build strong relationships and resiliency. We want to know each student by name and by story, strength and need.
We also work to ensure that our buildings are as safe as possible. Every year, we conduct safety and security audits for each of our schools. These reports help us prioritize the safety needs of each school.
Here are some of the safety precautions we have in place at schools throughout the district:
- Updating school safety plans each year
- Holding monthly emergency drills, including lockdowns and evacuations, so staff and students know how to respond in case of an emergency
- Limiting school access to one entry during school hours. This means that all doors, except the front door, are locked, in many of our schools.
- Using a buzzer system at the front door of many of our middle and elementary schools, which allows office staff to verify a visitor’s identity before they enter
- Using key cards instead of traditional keys in some schools
- Monitoring hallways with security cameras in all our middle and high schools and some of our elementary schools
- Staffing all our middle and high schools with at least one security specialist
- Each of the five regions of the school district has one mobile security unit to support elementary schools
- The Safety and Security Department has a School Threat Assessment Team and is hiring an Emergency Management Planner to more closely coordinate planning efforts with the city
- With our close partnership with the Seattle Police Department, we have had joint training with command staff as well as a thorough assessment of school buildings to improve school safety.
Families play an important role in helping schools remain safe. We need your vigilance to ensure that any safety concern is immediately reported. If you or your student see something, say something. Call your school administrator, the district Safe Schools Hotline at 206-252-0510 – or if it is an emergency – call 911 immediately.
Here are some other suggestions for you to help:
- Discuss school safety with your children
- Stay connected and monitor your student’s social media activities
- Familiarize yourself with warning signs provided by the Sandy Hook Promise
- Follow the law and lock any firearms in an approved storage component or locker
- Ensure your children do not have access to firearms while visiting other homes