West Seattle, Washington
Dear Denny Middle School families:
This letter is being sent home to our families to share important information about a serious allegation and our commitment to student safety.
You are receiving this letter because the allegation is against an employee who worked or substituted at your child’s school between 2014-15 and 2017-18 school years. We have no information that anything happened in our school, but we want you to be aware.
This week, we were notified that a student at John Muir Elementary had allegedly been sexually assaulted last year by an instructional assistant. While the alleged assaults took place at John Muir Elementary, where the instructional assistant worked full time last year, the student did not tell their parents about it until last Friday. Thankfully, the family immediately contacted law enforcement.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) began its investigation over the weekend. When the District received the information on Monday, it took swift action against the alleged perpetrator, Mr. Albert Virachismith, to prevent him from being in contact with students and restricted his access to any district property until the SPD criminal investigation is complete. He is not currently working in any Seattle schools. The District also started its own administrative investigation and is coordinating its efforts with the SPD. Last night, the SPD notified us that Mr. Albert Virachismith was placed under arrest and is in custody.
The SPD advised the District that detectives may need to talk to students as they continue to investigate. SPD Detective Anthony Belgarde has been assigned to this case, and I understand he will contact families directly before interviewing any students.
This is difficult news, and we understand you will want to talk to your child about this case. We want to do everything possible to help the police conduct a thorough investigation. The SPD asks parents to avoid asking leading questions that could interfere with the police investigation. If your student indicates on their own that he or she may have been touched inappropriately, contact Detective Belgarde at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The district is preparing additional information for our school for how to talk with your children about personal safety. Other resources you can access are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center at 888-998-6423 and Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress for information and help at 206-744-1600. If you have questions or concerns, please share your contact information with our school’s front office.
According to the King County Jail Register, Albert Virachismith, who is 40 years old, was booked earlier today and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, set at a probable-cause hearing earlier today, for investigation of child rape. We don’t have court documents from the hearing so we don’t yet know anything more about the case, aside from this district statement provided by spokesperson Kim Schmanke when we asked her about this tonight:
“Right now, our families are our priority. We are working to notify the families and staff where this individual has worked. These are disturbing allegations, and we are working closely with the Seattle Police Department. As soon as we were notified about the allegations, we barred Mr. Virachismith from taking any district jobs or being on school grounds. We are doing all we can to support a thorough SPD investigation.”
The suspect is due back in court next Tuesday, by which time a decision on charges will likely have been made.
Big day for high-school swimmers/divers tomorrow. Tonight we have an update from Brent Lindblom about Kennedy High School swimmers, including West Seattleites, headed into the district championships:
West Central District III Swim and Dive Champs
Though Kennedy Catholic High School is technically located in Burien, West Seattle has a growing number of students attending the school.
The Kennedy Boys swim and dive team is headed to WCD III 4A Swimming and Diving Championships being held at Curtis Aquatic Center (8805 40th St W, University Place). Congratulations to the Lancer boys moving on to Division championships:
Jack Fenster (50 Free)
Ty Lindblom (100 Back)
Ben Kinerk (50 Free & 100 Free)
Luke Dorsett (200 Free & 100 Free)
Brendan Stoll (50 Free)
Trey Hunt (Alt) – Lucas Richardson (Alt) – JJ Hartog (Alt) – Riley Duvall (Alt) – Ryan Klem (Swim Alt)
Date and Times for Swim Finals:
Saturday, February 3: Swimming Finals (Top 16 from Friday) – 3:30 Warmup – 4:30 Start
Except for participating athletes, all other students and parents must pay. Athletes will sit on the pool deck and spectators will sit upstairs. Admission is cash only – Adults: $8, Students w/ASB $5, Students without ASB $5, Under 12 $4, Senior Citizens $5
Above (or here in PDF) you can read the city’s contract with LIHI for its first four months of operating Camp Second Chance, the city-sanctioned encampment at 9701 Myers Way S., on the southeast edge of West Seattle. We obtained the contract from the city Human Services Department while looking ahead to Sunday’s monthly meeting of the Community Advisory Committee for the encampment (2 pm, Arrowhead Gardens, 9200 2nd SW).
At the past few meetings, someone has asked about getting a copy of the contract, and it’s been promised, but it hasn’t turned up on the city’s website, so we decided to ask in advance this time. It was for $75,000 to cover LIHI’s costs through the end of last year; HSD tells WSB that the contract for this year has not been finalized yet, but that’s expected to happen this month. Besides specifying the dollar amount, the 2017 contract – signed on November 21st – says that LIHI agrees to operate and provide case-management services for the encampment. It also spells out expectations on the duration of stay, and includes the explanation that the camp is self-managed, though campers do not have veto power over LIHI decisions. It also notes that campers provide security services, with at least one on duty at the gate at all times, and it notes that no one under 18 is allowed to stay at the camp.
One other issue that’s come up at Community Advisory Committee meetings – renewing the camp at the Myers Way Parcels site for a second year. Technically the camp’s already been there for a year and a half, but it didn’t become city-sanctioned until February of last year. We asked HSD spokesperson Meg Olberding about the status of a second year. Her reply in full:
Since opening the first city-funded managed encampment in November 2015, we’ve seen that they are an important part of the continuum to address unsheltered homelessness. Every night, nearly 300 people have a safer place to stay because of our six managed encampments. HSD received direction from the City Council during the budget season to expand the program to all districts in Seattle. We are balancing that policy direction with the commitment we’ve made to both encampment residents and housed neighbors to provide healthy and safe living conditions. As discussed in the Camp Second Chance CAC meeting in early January, HSD is working on a re-permitting process for the City’s managed encampments that acknowledges the commitment made to community members and the importance of these safer spaces for unsheltered people.
Monday is expected to be the third day of the First Student school-bus drivers’ strike in Seattle, according to their union, Teamsters Local 174, which posted this afternoon that “Since First Student still has not reached out to return to the negotiating table, the strike will be continuing on Monday.” The post also mentioned that West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold visited picketers this afternoon (they have lines up outside First Student bus yards in South Park and Lake City). The district said yesterday that the company expected to provide some service during the strike but did not publicly announce where, saying that affected families would be notified directly. The union says health-care benefits for workers’ families are a major point of contention.
Three weeks ago, we reported that the new MOD Pizza in The Whittaker (4755 Fauntleroy Way SW; WSB sponsor) planned to open in “early February.” The official grand opening is now set for one week from today – noon on Friday, February 9th. The Seattle-based chain also has picked the nonprofit to which it’ll donate opening day’s pizza proceeds: FareStart. If you haven’t been to MOD, its angle on pizza is that you get to choose your toppings, none or one or many, same price.
Another case in which a West Seattle Crime Watch reader report led to a theft victim being reunited with at least some of their stolen property. You might recall the car-break-in report from Emily, who was hopeful someone might spot her stolen ski boots. And someone did – we got a message yesterday from a reader who found them, and some of the other stolen items, less than a mile away, in the underground parking garage by Bartell Drugs in Admiral. Emily now has them back and adds, “I really appreciate the effort made by the person who found the items to reunite them with me.” We hope you don’t ever have a crime to report, but if you do, once you’ve filed a police report, let us know so we can include it here – at least as a warning to your neighbors peninsula-wide, and if it was a theft, a WSB reader just might spot some or all of your stuff.
… as soon as we saw a hint of sun and a glimpse of the Olympics’ famous peaks The Brothers, we ran out with the camera. The enthusiasm is justified by these stats:
Seattle had a total of 30 days in January that were either cloudy (22) or partly cloudy (8). Good news! It's February…so the most we can rack up this month is 28. #wawx
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) February 1, 2018
But if you’re no big fan of cold weather, you might have enjoyed January – the NWS also tweeted that only one day had a low temperature below freezing.
The members of the new city-convened Small Business Advisory Council have just been announced, and we recognize two West Seattle businesses on the list. As explained in the news release from Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s office, the SBAC is “a group tasked with ensuring small businesses have a role in informing policies and programs, and have the access to resources they need to thrive and be part of the solutions to the challenges of growth and Seattle’s affordability crisis” and “will provide input on the impact of City decisions, make policy recommendations, and help increase access to tools and resources available to small businesses including arts and culture organizations.” The announcement notes that small businesses “account for more than half of all jobs in Washington State and employ nearly 200,000 people in Seattle.”
Here are the members announced by the mayor – we’ve highlighted those we know have local ties (please let us know if we missed someone!):
Co-Chair Joe Fugere, Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria
Co-Chair Taylor Hoang, Cyclo Corp., Ethnic Business Coalition
Co-Chair Donna Moodie, Marjorie Restaurant, Mint Holding
Co-Chair Tracy Taylor, Elliott Bay Book Company
Maryan Abdulle, Nasib Family Child Care
Zewditu Aschenaki, Salon Adidez
Joey Burgess, Queer/Bar, Grim’s Provisions and Spirits
Shaiza Damji, Hotel Nexus
Solomon Dubie, Café Avole
Annette Heide-Jessen, Kaffeeklatsch
Edouardo Jordan, Salare Restaurant, JuneBaby
Lacey Leavitt, Electric Dream Factory
Elise Lindborg, ZippyDogs LLC
Rachel Marshall, Rachel’s Ginger Beer
Michael Megalli, indie.biz
Debbie Millard, Ballard Oil Company
Molly Moon, Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream
Linda Morton, Terra Plata
Gayle Nowicki, Gargoyles Statuary
Kamala Saxton, Marination
Lei Ann Shiramizu, Momo
Leigh Stone, Crybaby Studios
Gail Stringer, Hawaii General Store
Chuck Wang, Stage
Edwin Wanji, Sphere Solar Energy
Beto Yarce, Ventures
Lara Zahaba, Stoup Brewing
The SBAC also will have two city councilmembers serving “ex officio”: West Seattle/South Park’s Lisa Herbold and, newly elected to citywide Position 8, Teresa Mosqueda. The group’s expected to meet quarterly, starting with its first meeting on February 21st.
(Gulls, photographed by Robin Sinner, shared via the WSB Flickr group)
From the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar, as we head into February’s first weekend:
SSC FRIENDS & FAMILY DAY @ EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY CENTER: Thinking about studying at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor)? Stop by the TRIO Educational Opportunity Center between 11 am and 3 pm. Friends/family invited too! (6000 16th SW)
WINE AND CHOCOLATE: In advance of Valentine’s Day, Viscon Cellars (WSB sponsor) is again pairing three of its award-winning wines with three chocolate truffles from Pioneer Square-based Intrigue Chocolate. Last year’s edition of this “was such a sumptuous success, we had to repeat it,” explains winemaker Ben Viscon – this time with truffle bars, mini-truffle sets, and assorted chocolate bars. You can get in on this at the Viscon Cellars tasting room tonight, tomorrow, and Friday/Saturday of next week too. The tasting room is open 5-9 pm Fridays and 2-7 pm Saturdays. (5910 California SW)
CORNER BAR IN HIGHLAND PARK: The monthly neighborhood pop-up bar at Highland Park Improvement Club happens tonight, starting at 6 pm. Music with The Jesus Chords begins around 8. (1116 SW Holden)
BASKETBALL: The high-school regular season ends with a big cross-town showdown at West Seattle High School, as the Wildcats host the Chief Sealth International High School Seahawks. Girls JV at 4 pm, boys JV at 5:30 pm, girls varsity at 7 pm, boys varsity at 8:30 pm. (3000 California SW)
POON + GNARLENE AND THE FRISKY PIGS: 8 pm at The Skylark. $8 cover. 21+. (3803 Delridge Way SW)
CAVEMAN EGO ALBUM RELEASE: 8 pm at Parliament Tavern. Caveman Ego, with Palatine Trio. 21+. (4210 SW Admiral Way)
PREVIEW THE WEEKEND … by going to our complete-calendar page.
If you have unused, unneeded diapers in a size from newborn to 5T – maybe your baby/toddler just moved to another size, for example – you can donate them to WestSide Baby in a unique door-to-door donation drive tomorrow, but you have to sign up by tonight. WS Baby has partnered with Owen’s List – a Seattle family’s waste-reduction campaign – to collect diapers. Here’s what you have to do: No later than 8 tonight, sign up for Owen’s List via the button on the center of this page. You’ll get e-mail with details of the diaper drive (we tested the signup and the e-mail arrived immediately) – then put your donation(s) out tonight for pickup tomorrow. You can of course donate a box or bag of diapers as well as an unused partial pack.
P.S. If you want to help WestSide Baby but can’t be part of this drive – go here.
7:02 AM: Good morning. No incidents reported in/from West Seattle so far.
SCHOOL-BUS STRIKE: Day two, although Seattle Public Schools said First Student might provide some service, and that affected families would be notified directly.
MONDAY REMINDER: The Fauntleroy/Wildwood intersection closure, including rerouting of the C Line and 116 buses, is scheduled to start Monday and last up to two weeks.
7:08 AM: Transit alert just in from Metro:
Transit Alert – The first Route 57 to downtown Seattle due to leave the Alaska Junction at 6:41 AM is operating more than 30 minutes late this morning.
— King County Metro🚌 (@kcmetrobus) February 2, 2018
12:58 AM: Police are looking for a driver who they wound up following across the West Seattle Bridge – going the wrong way. We heard it all start on the scanner on I-5, and then police reported the driver was going westbound in the eastbound lanes of the bridge. The driver hit a barrier, according to police, and kept going. We recorded part of this via an SDOT camera and will add it when we can. The driver reportedly got off the bridge and then was seen on California by Charlestown “all over the road” but we haven’t heard any updates since. The vehicle is described so far as an older white Tahoe, and it’s reported to have left a trailer behind somewhere along the way. If you see this – or any other – erratic driver, call 911.
1:33 AM: Added our phone video of the SDOT camera that showed the wrong-way driver and police. Watch the left side of the screen for a vehicle trailing sparks. Still haven’t heard any word of police finding him (the description that was broadcast mentioned a beard as well as a gray beanie, so we’re fairly sure the driver was male).
10:44 AM: We confirmed with SPD that the vehicle/driver never was found. We also found out that officers in the South Precinct initially believed there was some association with a burglary case, but now they don’t think so, and believe it was more likely a case of driving under the influence.