American News Nov 23, 2021 8:16 AM EST

Students find shell casings on Seattle campus that school shares with violent homeless encampment

The principal told parents "…earlier this week, I was made aware of shell casings found near the fence line of the playground. The casings have also been turned over to police."

Students find shell casings on Seattle campus that school shares with violent homeless encampment
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA

Earlier this month, neighbors reported hearing gunshots near the homeless encampment at the Broadview Thompson K-8 public school in Seattle. First responders arrived at the school playground and found nothing so the incident was quickly forgotten.

On Friday, almost two weeks after the incident, the principal of the school, Tip Blish finally sent out an email acknowledging the shooting, after children discovered shell casings near the playground.

According to the email, when the police arrived on November 10 after being called by a security guard at a nearby community center, they did not find any evidence and no one was known to be injured in the alleged shooting.

The email continued, "Earlier this week, the school districts Safety and Security Department was made aware of this incident, and a police report has ben filed." The email added that security camera footage had been supplied to the police department.

Blish added, "…earlier this week, I was made aware of shell casings found near the fence line of the playground. The casings have also been turned over to police." Sources at the school told The Post Millennial that students discovered the shell casings near the playground during recess.

The email concluded, "Our campus continues to have extra security precautions while students are here- and we continue to review those of any needed adjustments. The safety and well being of our students and staff continues to be our first priority."

Yet, many were quick to point out that the security guards were hired after Seattle Public School cut ties with the police department and removed school resource officers from campuses during the height of the unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The guards were hired in response to parent and staff concerns following multiple violent episodes at the encampment.

Removal of the encampment has not been a priority for the school board since campers set up tents in 2020. Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson threatened volunteers with trespassing who were distributing leaflets regarding the encampment on campus, warning parents coming back to school about the dangers the campers caused during the pandemic and school officials’ refusal to address it.

Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf demanded Mayor Jenny Durkan not allow the encampments to be removed from school grounds. Hampson and DeWolf also published a 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."

According to the Seattle Times, the pair was recently cited for violating a board policy against harassing, intimidating and bullying staff members last year when they were working on an anti-racism policy with two black district employees.

The encampment has grown on the school campus since 2020. KOMO News reported over the weekend that rats are plaguing the neighborhood, "…feasting on festering piles of trash that have proliferated from camp residents, who people in the area say are producing mounds of garbage and discarded needles."

The school has been put on lockdown multiple times because of violence at the encampment. Multiple overdoses have been reported including one person whose dead body lay in the street for hours before it was attended to.

Earlier this month, SPS pledged to have the encampment removed by mid-December. The district had previously pledged to have the encampment removed before students returned in September.

The school locked a fence between the campers and the building due to drug use, used needles and the danger presented to students and families. King County vans have been spotted near the property giving out boxes of needles to addicts.  The locked gate prevented access for parents and caregivers dropping off their children including at least one elderly grandparent trying to get his grandchild to school.

Many have pointed to Mike Mathias, who has been tasked with dealing with the encampment by Seattle Public Schools, as one of many the reasons that the encampment has not been cleared. He has an extensive criminal past as well as addiction and mental health challenges, who has claimed he has gotten people out of the encampment and into shelters and services even while the encampment grew. The district turned to the city and county for additional support after Mathias failed to meet his goals.

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