Tighter gun safety in our schools — and a guilty plea from a former Edmonds-Woodway student

The Edmonds School District has amended its safety policies — to get police on scene faster — when guns are reported in schools. It comes after officers arrested a student with a gun at Edmonds-Woodway High School. That teen caught with the weapon has now pleaded guilty — but that’s just part of this story.

Edmonds-Woodway High School

On Sept. 29, at Edmonds-Woodway, two students notified administrators that a 15-year-old classmate told them he had a gun. According to court documents, the students showed text messages from the suspect “asking one of them to hold his gun for him because he was concerned he was going to be searched.” The suspect was brought to the office, his backpack searched and when staffers didn’t find anything, he was sent back to class. Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab told us that at that point, “nothing about that initial search raised a red flag.”

Snohomish County court records in Edmonds-Woodway gun case.

However, court documents show that later that morning, one of the students who made the initial report got back in touch with staff, worried about retaliation. The staff assured the student that the respondent “had been searched and did not have a weapon”. That same student told school staff they’d seen him with a gun the previous day. We are not using the suspect’s name; our policy is not to name suspects who are charged as juveniles.

But, for almost two more hours, the school took no further action. Then a third student reported that the suspect “told him that they (school staff) hadn’t found ‘it’ because he had ‘it’ near his waist/crotch area.”

Only then — at 1:11 p.m. — did the school call 911. Officers arrived within minutes, searched the suspect, found the gun, and arrested him. Schwab told us in our Oct. 13 story that “this incident shows some things we need to improve across our system and practices.”

Now,  that change in the gun threat policy has been implemented districtwide. “With regard to the updated protocol, that has come directly from me to principals that if you have a report of a student with a weapon on campus, law enforcement should be contacted at the outset,” Schwab told us in an Oct. 27 email.  “Policy and procedural language need to be updated and will be, but I did not want to wait for this step in the process to slow things down with regard to the implementation of the step regarding law enforcement.”

Meadowdale High School

The policy changes appear to have been put to the test just last week at Meadowdale High. The school quickly called Lynnwood police after a fight and the principal locked down the building. Lynnwood Police Commander Pat Fagan said that officers got there in time to talk to one student involved in the incident. School staff then found a single bullet in a backpack, but police did not find a gun.

Meadowdale High School parent Jolene Bridwell speaks to the school board Oct. 25.

However, at this week’s Edmonds School Board meeting, Meadowdale High parent Jolene Bridwell hadn’t yet heard about the new policy. Her voice cracking  with emotion, Bridwell told board members, “I cried on my commute home from work today, with an overwhelming ache of concern for my children and what I could do to help them feel safe at school.”

Now, every school staff member should know about the changes.

The Edmonds-Woodway teen pleads guilty – but…

The Snohomish County prosecutor charged the Edmonds-Woodway teen with unlawful possession of a firearm and possessing a dangerous weapon in a school. This past week, he pleaded guilty, but the court deferred sentencing on those charges. It put him on community supervision for a year, as long as he does not have access to a gun, and if he participates in juvenile rehabilitation programs. The deputy prosecutor objected, but the court ruled in favor of deferring.

Why? Turns out that King County detectives were in court too, and they had two outstanding arrest warrants for this teen — both for first-degree armed robbery. Last January, Seattle police arrested him and four others for a stickup in Rainier Beach. Documents allege that he “pulled out a black pistol, cocked the gun” and pointed it at a victim.

Then, in August, Tukwila police arrested the teen and others for stealing money and a cell phone — again at gunpoint. Surveillance video shows him with what police said was a gun, and when they arrested him just 30 minutes after the robbery, he had a Glock 29 in his pocket.

Those cases have not yet gone to trial. At some point in August, he was released pending further action. He then was able to enroll in the Edmonds School District this fall — he first attended Lynnwood High, then transferred to Edmonds-Woodway. The school district knew when he enrolled that he was wearing an electronic ankle monitor. District officials said that they did not know –– and were not told about — the King County charges that put that monitor on his leg. The district has not said whether it would have allowed him to be a student here if they had known of those charges. The suspect is currently in King County juvenile detention. He is no longer considered a student here.

His status was the last thing on Meadowdale parent Jolene Bridwell’s mind. She told the school board she hopes for just one thing: “A high standard of safety is what we all want for our children.”

— By Bob Throndsen

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