Following almost a year of dangerous incidents involving a homeless encampment on the campus of Broadview Thompson K-8 public school in Seattle widely covered by local and national media, Seattle Public Schools sent a letter Tuesday claiming that "We are not aware of any credible reports indicating weapons, drugs, or fighting." This after neighbors spotted alleged sex workers frequenting the encampment over the weekend and two days before police were called to the location for a fight between residents allegedly over a firearm.
Documents obtained by The Post Millennial show that in response to a letter raising concerns of "possible hazards at Broadview-Thomson," by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, Benjamin Coulter Assistant Manager of Safety and Security at Seattle Public Schools responded to the inquiry with a letter which said, "We are not aware of any credible reports indicating weapons, drugs, or fighting present on Broadview-Thomson school grounds or in any workspace of the school staff. It also should be noted that the district has not at any time permitted or authorized camping on its property."
SPS president Chandra Hampson and director DeWolf published a now deleted joint statement condemning any potential removal of encampments from school property or anywhere else in the city "We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City."
Hampson even threatened parents, neighbors and employees who showed up to campus with flyers about the situation for unaware parents on the first day of students returning to the building with trespassing.
Yet, Coulter’s letter claimed, "The encampment that does exist on the adjacent property has not been granted permission to remain, and the district will work toward its removal."
Former SPS superintendent Denise Juneau admitted in an email to neighbors obtained by The Post Millennial in April that "We realize people living unsheltered in encampments can create health and safety hazards for their occupants and the general public."
Ironically, Coulter’s response also included the safety precautions taken by the school in response to the safety issues caused by the encampment. “During this time, the district has worked to make the Broadview-Thomson campus as safe as possible. This has included the installation of buzzed entry features, card readers, and cameras. A security specialist also was assigned to the site and a privacy screen is being installed on the fence between the playground and the camp. Building security and custodial staff do checks of the general grounds and fencing at least once a day, and exterior doors are checked multiple times a day.”
This did not prevent an individual from gaining access to the building last month, forcing the students and faculty to go on lockdown and prompting a police response even as Coulter claimed, "the encampment and alleged associated hazards have not taken place in the workspaces of the staff at Broadview-Thomson K-8 or on the school grounds."
Coulter’s letter also continued the back and forth over who is responsible for the encampment. The encampment straddles a greenspace owned by Seattle Public Schools and a playfield operated by Seattle Parks and Rec.
"Seattle Public Schools acknowledges that there are unsheltered persons residing in an unauthorized encampment on property owned by the district (see attached map). This parcel is adjacent to the Broadview-Thomson K-8 School and consists of a green space with trees, bushes, and grassy areas that are primarily accessible from the Bitter Lake Playfield, which is owned by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. The property is separated from the Broadview-Thomson campus by an embankment and a six-foot fence. Historically, it has been maintained by Seattle Parks and Recreation."
Many have criticized the city, namely Mayor Jenny Durkan, for failing to address the encampment and placing the onus on the SPS, while SPS continues to claim the encampment is on city property. Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called out the school board for refusing to deal with the encampment. "The school district needs to step up. We are there to help and assist them but they cannot shirk their obligations and duties for school property, it's imposed not just by law but what parents and families expect."
The warning from Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries was posted as instructed on a bulletin board in the school "in a place where affected employees can easily see and read it." The notice went on to state that "A copy of the letter has been given to each authorized representative (if any) of the affected employees. The letter will be posted for a minimum of three working days, or until all hazards in this complaint, if found, are corrected."
Last week, after a second overdose occurred at the encampment, faculty and staff at Seattle’s Broadview Thomson K-8 school demanded Seattle Public Schools address the homeless encampment on the school's campus which has plagued the area with crime and drugs.
Parents at Seattle’s Broadview Thomson K-8 school fear for their children’s safety after the city and school board refused to intervene with the homeless encampment that currently resides on school property and has seen multiple overdoses of campers, rodents, brawls, weaponry and even people attempting to gain entry into the school building. Enrollment for Broadview-Thompson has fallen dramatically for the fall in response to the inaction of the Seattle School Board
A group of fed-up parents started a GoFund Me to raise money so that they can effectively sue the school over failure to remove the encampment from school grounds and provide safety to their students.