The Seattle Times
At rally, Seattle students demand more mental health resources, gun safety measures

Thousands of Seattle students walked out of class and rallied in front of Seattle City Hall on Monday morning, calling for better mental health support, more restrictions on gun access and more training for security staff in the wake of a shooting Tuesday at Ingraham High that left one student dead.Carrying hand-lettered signs, they crammed onto public transit and marched along city blocks to air their demands and grievances about student well-being and school violence.Students, accompanied by some parents, filled the entryways and stairs of City Hall and spilled onto the sidewalk, holding signs that read “1,457 kids dead in 2022, how many more?” and “Why do we need to miss class to tell you we’re unsafe.”Attendees observed 4 minutes of silence for the 17-year-old victim before marching around City Hall and down to Westlake.Monday marked the first day back in session at Ingraham, and students there and across the city walked out shortly after school began.Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones has outlined new steps to address student security and well-being. But some students and families at Monday’s rally questioned whether change will happen in a timely and meaningful manner.Ingraham sophomore Sefa Yap headed to the City Hall rally by bus with four friends Monday morning. “The fact that someone was able to bring a gun on campus and was able to fire that gun at another student during school hours just goes to show that there aren’t things that are protecting students,” Yap said.She said the online scheduling system to see a counselor at school is booked out for weeks, and it’s often hard to find an appointment that works around a student’s class schedule.“A school shooting is something no student, family or educator should have to endure,” Jones said in a video statement. “We cannot allow violence to take root in our community. We must do more to prepare our students to resolve conflicts with words, not weapons.”

Taking action

Last week, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and other local and state school and government leaders called for more gun safety measures and restricted access.Nyshae Griffin and Tawaf Aboudou, both Garfield High students, said they want to see an end to gun violence affecting schools and communities. “People shouldn’t have the power to take another life,” Aboudou said.Griffin said it’s incomprehensible to think that someone was able to take a gun into a school building. Adults in leadership positions need to be more attentive to students and offer more mental health resources, said Griffin, who said mental health is obviously an issue for someone who would think to bring a gun to school and take someone’s life. “This shouldn’t happen.”On Monday, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda proposed a budget adjustment that would set aside an additional $2 million over two years to expand mental health services in schools. Mosqueda described the funding as a “down payment” on the student demands which will be further addressed in future budgets.The money would come from JumpStart payroll tax revenue, and would go to the city’s Department of Education and Early Learning.“This budget invests in ongoing investments in gun violence reduction, as well as increasing mental health counselors for youth,” Mosqueda said.Last week, Jones introduced a new safety initiative that would include a districtwide safety and security audit; the creation of a “community action team,” which would include city and police personnel; and the creation of a “child well-being council.” He did not give a timeline for these initiatives to be rolled out.

Student demands

Monday’s walkout was organized by the Seattle Student Union, a group of student activists, and Ingraham Students Against Gun Violence.They are asking for 1 mental health counselor for every 200 students, a demand they first raised during Seattle student protests against school violence last year. The current ratio is 1 counselor per 350 students, according to the district, with the highest need occurring at the middle school level.“Personally I’ve talked to my family about [what happened], but there are a lot of people who don’t have that kind of support system at home and look for a support system at school or at other places,” said Yap, the Ingraham sophomore. “You can talk to your friends but talking to an adult is a different thing and it’s not really available to everyone right now.”Students say they also want the district to include a class about navigating interpersonal conflicts using dialectical behavior therapy in the high school graduation requirement. “This form of communicatory aid, combined with wellness curriculums already in place, will allow all students to work through internal and external friction,” students said.Students said they don’t want armed police officers in schools. They do want security specialists trained in de-escalation tactics, anti-racism and restorative justice practices to help prevent violence and intervene when problems arise.Students are also calling for schools to use “beneficial outreach programs,” like Tutors Impacting Public Schools, to “recognize the intersectionality and diversity of learning styles where our school systems do not” and “address inequity in public education” to help kids focus on being successful.Lina McRoberts, a student at Ballard High School who helped organize Monday’s walkout, was hopeful the students’ list of demands would be met.The shooting at Ingraham High school was “heartbreaking and awful,” she said.“You almost can’t imagine it happening to you,” McRoberts said. Then it hits close to home and your world is sort of suspended, she added.
When Sezim Basaran, a Lincoln High sophomore who previously attended Ingraham, got word of what happened, she said one of her teachers canceled classes for the day so students could talk and cry with each other.While some Ingraham students say their teachers helped their students close windows and blinds and keep quiet during last week’s lockdown, others say their teachers kept on teaching because they thought it was a drill.Tuesday’s shooting at Ingraham was the first shooting inside a Seattle school building since the 1990s.During Monday’s rally, Seattle police estimated there were about 2,000 people in the City Hall crowd. Later, between 700 and 900 protesters marched down city streets to continue the rally at Westlake. McRoberts called the crowd’s size “liberating and empowering.”“It showed me that we’re not alone,” she said. … Read More
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