FOLLOWUP: Questions and some answers, the day after Sealth student’s arrest following bullets, gun found at school

One day after Chief Sealth International High School told families a student had been arrested in connection with the discovery of bullets and a stolen gun at school, we asked more followup questions, and here’s what we’ve received in response, via Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Stacy Howard:

*The district can’t comment as to why the notification went out at the end of the day, and says there is no policy about how soon such notifications should be made.

*They can’t comment on what discipline the student might face separate from potential prosecution, as that is “private” information.

*We asked how many guns were found on SPS campuses so far this year; reply – this was the only one so far.

Meantime, principal Jeff Clark from neighboring Denny International Middle School sent us this letter he sent to families today; it includes a followup letter that Sealth principal Aida Fraser-Hammer sent to families at her school (we received a copy of her followup letter from the district earlier today).

Dear Denny Families,

Yesterday, there was an incident at Chief Sealth.  The principal of Chief Sealth, Ms. Fraser-Hammer, wrote the letter below which is being sent home and shared with the calling machine.  We want you to be aware as well.  Safety continues to our top priority—we are prioritizing this with our collaboration with Chief Sealth.


Jeff Clark, Principal
Denny International Middle School

(Sealth followup letter)

December 17, 2015

Dear Chief Sealth families,
I want to follow up on the incident at our school yesterday. I understand you might have some questions or concerns, so I would like to give you some clarity on the situation.

Prior to the start of school yesterday morning, a gun magazine was discovered in a classroom. I notified SPS security and began an investigation to determine its origin and whether a student was involved. SPS security and administration interviewed several students, and identified a potential student of concern. The student was immediately escorted to the office where SPD and school security secured the incident. The student took responsibility for bringing a weapon and said he did not intend to harm anyone. Seattle Police arrested the student.

Please know that we take safety in our buildings very seriously; the well-being of our students is our top concern. I am proud of how our staff responded to this incident.

We will continue to coordinate with SPD and are committed to doing everything we can to keep our students safe. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Aida Fraser-Hammer
Chief Sealth International High School

16 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Questions and some answers, the day after Sealth student's arrest following bullets, gun found at school"

  • M December 17, 2015 (9:17 pm)

    So basically they still won’t provide answers. The “investigation” that needs to be launched is on how the school dealt with this situation.

  • datamuse December 17, 2015 (11:44 pm)

    What is unsatisfactory about their handling of it?

  • Wsea98116 December 18, 2015 (1:43 am)

    Would this be preferable?
    8am- magazine found.
    801am- blast sent to parents- “We got bullets! Help! Somebody call 911!!

    Why should parents have been notified earlier than 5pm?
    There was nothing for parents to do. What would parents have done differently if they were notifeid at 2pm, or 11am? They would all rush to the school and demand the release of their children and cause a great panic and comotion about something they don’t understand and can’t do anything about!
    The principal had so much to do and confirm before notifying the public, as well as maintaining calm and order for the students.

    Parents who are upset with faculty over the handling of this situation- based on the information released- need to BACK UP!

  • Seattle Mom December 18, 2015 (2:29 am)

    Datamuse, there’s quite a bit that were finding unsatisfactory. First of all, it took over 30 hours to notify parents. Second, by all accounts it took over 3 hours for the police to be called after finding a magazine in a classroom(with students at school). Third there was no lock down initiated, and if there was a reason to not be following what were told is normal protocol parents should be told why.
    As a parent of a child at the connecting middle school(where kids travel back and forth sharing classes at both schools) I was notified the next day after the incident, and after school. When school shootings have happened as often as they have I’d like to think the school could at least have a reasonable protocol in place to protect the children if a dangerous situation was clearly possible, such as finding a magazine with bullets in it in a classroom, at least to me that might be a sign that there was a reason to worry.
    Not trying to attack you here, just explain. As a parent we can’t protect our children all the time but would like to think that a school does all in their power to protect the hundreds of children they are charged with caring for during a day. Not much about this situation makes parents feel they took all the steps they could to keep our children safe.
    Maybe there is more they are not telling us. Since they have said very little so far, I’m sure there is. But from what we have been told they did not take nearly the precautions they could or should have.
    The magazine was discovered before school, was the gun located before as well? If so, when? If not why was school allowed to continue as normal? Why did it take over 3 hours for police to be notified? Why has it taken to long to notify parents?
    I understand not releasing all the details about the child but parents should be told more about this incident than “yeah a kid brought a loaded gun to school and we caught him some time later, no big deal”
    No, either there’s stuff they are not telling, or they screwed up and didn’t handle this as well as they should have.

  • bertha December 18, 2015 (6:15 am)

    datamuse- the question is, why the school waited for over 2 hours after the magazine was found to call police. What is SPS policy when weapons/ammo are found on school grounds? Why won’t SPS answer questions from the community in an honest, timely manner?

  • JC December 18, 2015 (7:56 am)

    Well said Seattle Mom! I have a child at Denny as well and felt Seattle Police should have been notified asap. Glad I pulled my other child out of Chief Sealth. I’ve been told by many parents and students the principal there at Sealth is not a very good leader or the brightest bulb on the planet.

  • STEMmite December 18, 2015 (8:56 am)

    There was a Civil War re-enactor at K-8 STEM yesterday, which I learned about after the fact from another parent, but all we knew then was that a guy with a rifle slung over his back walked right into an elementary school without being challenged. Doesn;t the district have very clear policies about guns on school campuses? What about lockdown procedures? Why were none of the supposed security procedures followed? We’re still waiting to hear about it from the principal, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • OldHippy December 18, 2015 (9:01 am)

    @Wsea98116, I think you’re only looking at one aspect of the problem. I agree that the notification arguments are not necessarily the calamity that some have expressed, though I certainly understand why they would want to know as soon as possible. The bigger problem, and the one that I think should be causing us concern is the way in which the teacher and principal handled the incident. For example, I would hope that the school has an incident response plan that is is tested (like, as in a drill) periodically, and that this plan would include guidance like, “if you find bullets, a firearm, a bomb, etc., don’t touch anything and call 911.” What has been described is not a good response- “if you find bullets (etc.) pick them up and take them to the principal, so you can debate the matter at length”. Frankly, the staff at Sealth are there to teach and to make reasonable efforts to keep the students safe. I don’t have confidence that they are competent in the realm of threat or crisis management (and I’m not suggesting they should be). When faced with something like this, they need to sound the alarm (figuratively) and let those trained in these scenarios do their jobs. What was described in Principal Fraser-Hammer’s email suggests that we simply got lucky.

  • Dr. Bob December 18, 2015 (11:54 am)

    Reactionaries are always bent on proving they lack the capacity for logic. This matter is no different.

  • datamuse December 18, 2015 (1:39 pm)

    No worries, Seattle Mom. Thanks for that detailed explanation. I’d like to know more about exactly what happened and when myself. I’m thinking of a friend who used to be a K-12 teacher and on two separate occasions caught students bringing firearms to school. Since he caught them himself he was the one to call police. (This was, for reference, something like 20 years ago. I don’t know what if any process the school he worked for had in place for such incidents.)

  • calmingaffect December 18, 2015 (5:31 pm)

    Maybe all kids should be home schooled then there would be nothing to be worried about…but wait that would take away the free 8 hours of babysitting what was I thinking!?

  • MEDICAL INTERN December 18, 2015 (8:12 pm)

    This is very intresting, do you guys think he/she will go to jail for a long time?

    • WSB December 18, 2015 (8:16 pm)

      No one was hurt and the student is 15, so a long sentence would not be likely. I hope to be able to find out the status of the case from prosecutors next week; information about juveniles is not openly available online. – TR

  • thoughts December 18, 2015 (11:36 pm)

    I agree the police should have been called in immediately. That should have been the top priority.

    I can see how emailing parents could have resulted in an unwitting text/call/email from a parent/peer to the youth with the gun alerting him/her to the fact that missing bullets had been found. “Oh, where’s my other cartridge?” Emailing the parents could have potentially have been counterproductive and even more dangerous.

    That said, a shelter in place could have been called as soon as the police arrived. That would have put an end to students being in the hallways (ex. even if bad intent, which it sounds like there wasn’t here… just stupidity, the student likely would have been separated from additional weapons/bullets in a locker/car/etc.). A lock down can freak youth out and so probably should only be when an imminent threat is apparent.

    The school security team seems to have done a good job finding the student – calling the police and instituting a shelter in place (or lockdown as some suggested) is probably on the principal. However, surely within a few minutes district security staff would be involved too with due to this type of weapons find, and their security-focused training maybe should have advised the principal to call the police/shelter in place/lockdown, so this may not all be on the principal

  • Teresa December 21, 2015 (9:23 am)

    Thanks for the update! Right after you updated us, I was able to search the school’s webpage for a policy (Superintendent Procedure 3248SP.
    There are specific procedures for weapons possessions, e.g.,
    “1. If serious harm is possible, call the Police (911) immediately.” There are also procedures for firearms and disciplinary action, e.g., “shall be expelled from school for not less than one year.”

    I do believe parents should be notified before their children come home. That way parents are more prepared to talk about these scary events with their children. Parents don’t want to hear about this from their kids, that scares them!

  • au December 21, 2015 (10:55 am)

    Ya, I guess a resolution without incident isn’t good enough.

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