WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Noose found in tree at Pathfinder K-8, principal tells families (updated)

ORIGINAL FRIDAY NIGHT REPORT: Thanks to the Pathfinder K-8 community members who forwarded this letter emailed tonight by the school’s principal, Dr. Britney Holmes:

Dear Pathfinder Families and Staff,

I’m writing to inform you about an incident that occurred today at our school.

This morning about 8:50 a.m. a staff member discovered a noose attached to a tree on our campus. They immediately notified me. I took photos to document the item, and then had the custodian remove it. Discovery and removal took place during student arrival time. We don’t know how many students may have seen it.

We immediately contacted SPS Safety and Security department. We have also made a report to the Seattle Police Department. The incident is still under investigation.

Our school administrative team will be meeting with the central office coordinated school health team to determine next steps in providing supports to our school community. In the meantime, employees can receive free, confidential short-term counseling from the SPS Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The number for EAP is 877-313-4455. Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is committed to ensuring students have safe and welcoming environments for learning.

Neither SPS nor our school will tolerate any symbols of hatred, oppression, or violence. As a community, we are working to be anti-racist. We will continue to build anti-racist systems in our school. We will continue to lift up our families and communities of color and keep them involved in our process.

I hope you can find comfort and joy with family and friends this weekend.

We have no additional information but will be following up with the district and police.

ADDED MONDAY MORNING: This is the only statement from the district so far, via spokesperson Tim Robinson: “A noose was discovered on Friday and the district is offering supports to staff and students. Additional information has come in and, working with the school principal, the district is continuing to investigate in order to gain as much information as possible regarding the use and occurrence of this abhorrent symbol.”

ADDED WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Multiple readers have forwarded us an email that Dr. Holmes sent tonight. It begins:

I’m writing today to provide an update about the recent incident that occurred at our school.

As you know, a noose was found attached to a tree on our campus last Friday. Immediately, this incident was reported to Seattle Public Schools Safety and Security and the Seattle Police Department.

Since the opening of the investigation, a member of the Pathfinder community has come forward to identify the person responsible. That information has been shared appropriately with law enforcement and SPS leaders in order to bring appropriate resolution to the matter. The case remains under investigation by SPD.

Although responsibility has been admitted, I want to emphasize that this does not mitigate the gravity of the incident and its deep impact on those members of our community. Collectively, we must acknowledge that the symbolism used in this incident, regardless of intent, invoked anger and fear in many people, particularly our BIPOC families and staff.

As a result, my immediate hope and goal is to bring our Pathfinder family together to begin the healing process with the following opportunities for understanding and conversation.

The principal then lists three times next week for the school and Pigeon Point community to have that conversation, in “affinity spaces” for white participants at one and BIPOC participants at the other, and a third event for all.

57 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Noose found in tree at Pathfinder K-8, principal tells families (updated)"

  • Sam October 29, 2021 (9:17 pm)

    Could this be Halloween related?

    • Emily Garnell October 29, 2021 (11:56 pm)


      • Sam October 30, 2021 (8:44 am)

        Why not?

        • Meka October 30, 2021 (12:16 pm)

          The principal is a Black woman. A noose is a very particular racist signal that is meant to remind Black People of lynching. 

          • cheeseWS777 October 30, 2021 (9:01 pm)

            Halloween was my first thought tho as well (granted i had no idea about the principle)…

          • What October 30, 2021 (9:08 pm)

            A noose may be used that way but it also may not. There are plenty of Halloween decorations with a noose.  Plenty. You may not like them but that can be your opinion. Sadly the noose was, and still is, used around the world regardless of skin color to execute people. 

    • Tim October 30, 2021 (1:31 pm)

      No. Not Halloween related. Not a chance.Asking”innocent” clarifying questions had become a fascist social media tactic. I hope this isn’t the case here.The impact far outweighs any possibility of innocent intent. This is horrible, violent messaging that needs to be fought with love and strength. Not questioning the intent.

  • Rara October 29, 2021 (9:52 pm)

    Whoever did that is a horrible human. Gross. These kids are already going thru enough stress. They don’t need more fear to deal with. 

    • Concerned Citizen November 3, 2021 (6:03 pm)

      Please don’t calll a child a “horrible human” when you don’t have any facts…or better yet just don’t ever call a child a horrible human.  Maybe look in the mirror and ask yourself what kind of person says that about a child.  ALL the fear here was fabricated by the leadership at the school so please direct your frustrations and anger towards them not this child who Pathfinder should’ve been helping.

      • trauma November 4, 2021 (1:04 am)


  • Alki resident October 29, 2021 (10:00 pm)

    Did anyone stop to think this possibly could be a suicide attempt instead of hatred?

    • What October 29, 2021 (10:37 pm)


    • AdmiralSDV October 30, 2021 (12:30 am)

      At a school? Unlikely. 

      • Alice October 31, 2021 (1:55 am)

        The very first thing I thought of was that this could have been a suicide attempt, and YES, at a school. It is possible for children in elementary school to experience suicidal ideation and preliminary action and those behaviors cannot predict how or where a person would commit an act of suicide.i would prefer the possibility of this being a mental health crisis-call for help, rather than jump to a seemingly unfounded assumption that this was a discriminatory hate crime.

    • Eric October 30, 2021 (9:18 am)

      My first thought was suicide and halloween. I understand that there may be the other connotations, but I think this is more likely bad taste jokes among kids. Very sad if it were directed at anyone. Pathfinder kids are especially kind,  and inclusive,   for now I’d rather choose to believe its the macabre of halloween. 

    • Kimberly Valadez October 30, 2021 (9:26 pm)

      That was my first thought as well….suicide in middle schools does occur. It’s just really hard to imagine anyone in West Seattle being this hateful

    • Friend of West Seattle November 1, 2021 (8:17 am)

      This isn’t really a serious line of questioning…  Just someone who either wants to make excuses or is baiting the conversation.

  • M October 29, 2021 (10:39 pm)

    Dr. Holmes is an absolute treasure and a welcomed breath of fresh air to so many families at Pathfinder K-8, ours being one of them.  I’m so angry and sad about what happened today. I hope white parents and community members email her to express their support and take more of an active role to speak to their neighbors and friends about this horrible incident. 

  • Elissa Nelson October 29, 2021 (11:21 pm)


  • Del October 30, 2021 (12:15 pm)

    Was it an actual noose knot or just a rope tied with a loop handle? I could see a kid innocently tying a rope on a tree to make a swing, and maybe it got construed out of place? At least that’s my hope, that it was just an random incident, and not a targeted hate act. 

  • Mariem October 30, 2021 (5:02 pm)

    Seriously folks… Halloween prop? Remnants of a Suicide attempt ? It’s disheartening when people try to finds excuses or other possibilities for what is clearly racist hatred. There are no alternative facts for this. 

    • Kimberly Valadez October 30, 2021 (9:29 pm)

      I don’t think anyone is trying to find a alternative fact…I think people are trying to look at all possibilities. So many have attempted suicide from hanging. My son had a classmate hang himself 2 years ago. He was really young. It’s just really hard to imagine anyone being this hateful in West Seattle. 

    • Pathfinder Family November 3, 2021 (6:43 pm)

      Yes those would’ve been some of the obvious conclusions that a rational person would’ve made. Not a racist hate crime from a child. That is really whats disheartening here. The fact that you and a few other people have so quickly accused a child of such a horrible act without knowing any real facts about it. These are exactly the same paranoid mentalities that have done and supported so many horrific acts in human history. Your part of the problem when you don’t step back, think humanely, empathetically and rationally before drawing conclusions and stating there’s only one plausible worst case scenerio. Not doing so is reckless and damaging to the lives you’re so recklessly and blindly making these false accustations towards.
      Now that the facts are out I hope the community has learned not to so quickly judge and assume the worst in our children. I would hope adults would seek a little more evidence other than a jumprope hanging from a tree on Halloween weekend to accuse a child of being a racist who commited a hate crime and should be locked up as some of the deranged people here have stated. 
      As horrible as the Pathfinder leadership and some of its blind accusatories have been during this there certainly can be some postive change gained if they can come out of this with a new outlook and faith in our communities young people.
      I hope this child gets support and counceling, he’s certainly going to need it now.

      • Kelly November 4, 2021 (7:30 am)

        I couldn’t have said it better, Pathfinder Family. A vulnerable child (and their family) is now being exploited to make a point about racism. It’s sick. It’s not only backfiring terribly, it has the capacity to destroy this child’s life if our pathfinder community does not immediately open our hearts and minds and do for them what we would want done if it was our child/family. I don’t know any specifics of this child, but I can so easily see this being my child in a few years when in middle school, given the cognitive and emotional  disabilities that effect their life daily, cognitively being unable to connect symbolism of a noose with what they are feeling. Sending love to all Pathfinder children and their families.

  • Adam October 31, 2021 (7:25 am)

    I have no idea why this is there. But there is a story I’d like to share a link for that explains a pretty good reason why we cannot always just jump to conclusions. This may or may not be what ppl are saying it is, but what I do know is most or all of us didn’t actually see this, but are responding to a story, a title, and a response within the story. Maybe it’s a racist item meant to instill fear, but to sit and tell ppl they’re essentially dumb for not jumping to the worst conclusion right off the bat is actually pretty sh-tty. The story of ropes hanging in a tree in Lake Merrit in/near SF tells us why. https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/nooses-found-in-oakland-being-investigated-as-hate-crimes-mayor/2311056/?amp

  • Jen October 31, 2021 (9:36 am)

    I completely agree with Mariem, and this is completely unacceptable. This was at a school. Kids saw this. When the hell are we going to evolve away from hate and fear??? I have NO doubt this was a racial display, and it saddens me greatly to see it in our community.  We need to rally with Pathfinder and help support a safe environment.

  • Jamie October 31, 2021 (2:56 pm)

    This symbol is very disturbing and upsetting and I’m very sad for the impact it has on everyone especially the black community.  At the same time I know the kid (not adult) who did it and I absolutely believe them when they say it was never intended as racist commentary.   They told me the whole story and it was an impulsive attempt at dark humor about suicide to impress their friends. The community is absolutely entitled to their distress yet it is still true that kids lack the historical context of adults and might make mistakes with consequences way beyond what they intended.   I’m not sure it helps to know that but I absolutely believe that is what happened here and I have no tolerance for hate crimes, racism and hatred or violent threats whatsoever.   

    • RadarRandom November 1, 2021 (9:58 am)

      @Jamie: I can confirm your post.  A good portion of the student body knows this to be a fact.  My kid attends Pathfinder in the 8th grade and knows by name the student responsible.  The kid is known for dark humor and was, in fact, wearing the noose around his/her neck during the school day before while in class.   I cannot improve on @Jamie’s very well-articulated post, this is a trigger regardless of intent.  Let’s hope one of the kids or adults who know the truth steps up to help put an end to this story and further wild speculation. 

    • Hell Nah November 1, 2021 (10:17 am)

      How old is this kid? A pathfinder student? I understand that they may not have meant it as a hateful and racist message, but intent doesn’t really matter. It IS a hateful and racist display. It hurt people. It caused trauma. If they aren’t a pathfinder student (and I seriously doubt that they are) then why choose this location for this “dark humor”? How impulsive could it be? They had to tie a noose, find a location and string it up. It took thought and time to execute. Intent aside (because who cares) they need to be held accountable to the community. Maybe some volunteer hours in the community and further education on the history of such things is in order.

      • RadarRandom November 1, 2021 (3:13 pm)

        It is was/is a Pathfinder student.  @Hell Nah: I get what you are saying – that intent does not change the impact.  Horrible and upsetting for many.  Which has me wondering why this was not handled more discreetly until all the information was in.  Broadcasting this out to the entire school community within hours of the discovery and over multiple days, via text message, likely upset far more people than need be.   As a Pathfinder parent of biracial children, I am here to tell you, this is turning out to be a VERY different conversation at the dinner table than I think the school staff anticipated.  

        • Kimberly Valadez November 2, 2021 (8:08 am)

          Shame on Pathfinder for putting this out in the public for scrutiny minus both sides of the story!!! They have caused more harm than they are able to comprehend by allowing the community to believe a narrative that completely falls apart with the whole scenario

          • Stand behind them November 3, 2021 (8:44 pm)

            Actually I think that Dr. Holmes made a wise decision. This type of hatred is STILL happening and OUR kids at Pathfinder are now being educated about hate crimes and what it means IT IS PART OF HISTORY BUT IS STILL AN ISSUE! Keep talking about it. I condone and stand behind the community of MY BIRACIAL CHILDREN!!!  

    • Chris K November 1, 2021 (11:44 am)

      This person should be behind bars for a hate crime.  There is nothing humorous about this whatsoever.

      • Pathfinder parent November 1, 2021 (5:49 pm)

        It’s a kid.  Kids are often at home for 18 years. They need time to screw up and then learn from the messes they create.  We as adults should be able to understand that this is an opportunity for them (and us) to grow and learn.  I feel bad for this kid.  Forethought and and predicting consequences took me a while to get right.  I’m glad I had patient and understanding adults around.  Let’s take a breathe and understand that this wasn’t what it looked like.  

  • grocerylist November 1, 2021 (10:30 am)

    I’m disappointed that Dr Holmes hasn’t corrected the false narrative yet and explained what really happened.

    • Elle November 1, 2021 (3:41 pm)

      False narrative -?? Black folks were and have been recently hung from trees with a noose for the color of their skin.  The damage is deep and symbolism is real …intent is besides the point now. Have you no decency, to put this woman on notice..?? You should be ashamed of yourself…

      • Pessoa November 1, 2021 (4:17 pm)

        What are you talking about – intent is not important?? Is this the sort of justice you want if you accidentally, god forbid,  took the life of someone in a car accident, and you received the same sentence as someone who had purposely hit someone? This sort of blurring of ethics and tossing out foundational legal precepts when we are talking about racial incidents is extremely alarming. Of course we realize the significance of nooses, and we all hope that Ms. Holmes, D. Ed., and any staff were not unduly traumatized by this incident – what decent person doesn’t? – but we don’t compound one error with another. 

        • Elle November 2, 2021 (4:38 pm)

          Go ahead and turn around what I said…. Typical expert mentality. WE should be traveling VERY LIGHTLY HERE. My point is to NOT recognized the deep seeded pain that comes along with this incident is abhorrent. Stop the micros- this is our community which I have helped build and will continue to protect and support.

          • Kelly November 2, 2021 (11:46 pm)

            Elle- just because you are uncomfortable with what was said and disagree doesn’t mean it was actually a micro aggression….

    • MrPHD November 1, 2021 (10:26 pm)

      Agreed. We are also disappointed that Principal Holmes is not changing the narrative at all.  If so many kids knew who did it and (it can be assumed) knew this on Friday, it seems odd to allow all this speculation to continue in the community.  Communications from her tonight state that students were talked to today, but ours stated otherwise.

  • WSB November 1, 2021 (12:04 pm)

    So far the district is only saying (and I am adding this above), “Additional information has come in and, working with the school principal, the district is continuing to investigate in order to gain as much information as possible regarding the use and occurrence of this abhorrent symbol.” If another communication is sent to the school community, please forward, as these are not routinely sent to media. – TR

    • Kelly November 1, 2021 (7:30 pm)

      Spokesperson for SPS, Tim Robinson, is quoted above as saying the school is providing support for students and staff. This is largely false. Is this a mistake of the WSB or misinformation from SPS? We prepped our child over the weekend so that they would hear about the incident from their parents before hearing it from peers. Surprisingly, after multiple alerts and traumatizing parents over the weekend, it was never mentioned (at least not to our child) by any adult today at Pathfinder. Now we are left wondering if SPS or current Pathfinder leadership are using an incident for political gain/agenda or if they are only (once again) showing their egregious incompetence.  

      • WSB November 1, 2021 (11:03 pm)

        Mistake? No, that is the actual, word-for-word (which is why it’s in quotation marks) entire response I got from the district spokesperson at 10:39 am, less than an hour and a half after I emailed him to ask about the incident and whether additional information had come to light since the principal’s Friday evening email – TR

  • Sad November 1, 2021 (12:09 pm)

    This whole thing is really sad, including the comments that there can be no alternate facts and that it can only have had one intention.In the midst of all the awful things going on these days, it seems like we need to preserve our thoughtfulness and not make assumptions, even if the conclusion seems obvious.  Remember what happens when you assume…  

  • Kimberly Valadez November 2, 2021 (8:15 am)

    Pathfinder is dropping the ball big time on this… suicide ideation is a cry for help and I’m so disappointed that they knew the facts on Friday and still chose to mislead the community. As educators they’re concern should be educating our children and they are missing it when it comes to mental health crisis awareness this is a totally teachable moment that they need to address!!!

  • grocerylist November 2, 2021 (10:47 am)

    I totally agree. Suicide isn’t funny, it’s highly pertinent to children (and adults) and this event shouldn’t be twisted and manipulated to  push an unrelated agenda. Rather than tell the truth and admit they were wrong in their initial rash assessment, they’re digging in to continue and make this something that it simply isn’t. I’m happy for the children to learn about racial equality but you shouldn’t go searching for racism where it never existed in order to teach a lesson. Since it’s been discovered this was a bad suicide joke, it’d be far more suitable to have the school/community learning about depression, bullying, etc.

    • CheckUrSelf November 2, 2021 (1:51 pm)

      We are a black family at Pathfinder and I don’t think anyone is actively searching for racism or trying to further any political agenda. The act itself caused trauma and hurt. Dr. Holmes, the administration and the district are continuing with an ongoing investigation before anymore harm can be done. The students absolutely were spoken to and had the opportunity to find space to talk about what happened or find peace in solitude. Finding healing within the Pathfinder community is the first priority and the community outside of the school can come second. 

      • Honesty November 2, 2021 (8:01 pm)

        That’s inaccurate. SOME Pathfinder students were provided proper support. Just like SOME Pathfinder families were provided support on Sunday (only BIPOC families though). Our kid came home in tears today from school asking why they were directed to go with a group based on the color of their skin. Being raised in a multiracial extended family, with about half their friends/close relatives having a different skin color, they identified more with the ‘mixed race’ group and didn’t understand why they were not given a choice, and directed to go to the white group instead. Our kid was told in the affinity group all about what nooses are used for, with no permission given from parents. Nicely done Holmes – in spite of our efforts to help our kid be an ally, they are now confused, angry and scared at school. Perhaps that’s the desired intent. Holmes has a job to do – if she was traumatized because of a student’s misunderstanding of social cues and unable to at least attempt to support all students and families appropriately- with an actual trauma informed lens-  at a school commonly referred to as autism central, then Pathfinder is not a good fit for her. 

      • RadarRandom November 2, 2021 (8:47 pm)

        The facts of this incident have not been shared with the students at Pathfinder or parents by the Principal or SPS.  Only the same text message on a daily basis that implied it was all still under investigation.    My kids and I talk about it on the way to and from school each day and are left to draw our own conclusions about this incident being politically driven .  That has never been what this school was about and I look forward to someone putting things back on track to the real issue in my families view and that is teen suicide.  God forbid this kid was calling out for help and is not getting any.   Hope we hear more facts soon.

      • Pathfinder Family November 2, 2021 (10:48 pm)

        Except for the fact that the principal knew before she made this all public as a hate crime that it wasn’t. The child that did this came forward at 4pm on Friday, hours before her traumatic messages were sent that evening. Also he was even seen the day before wearing the same jump rope around his neck in the classroom!  Why was no action taken? This kid needs to be guided, helped and educated not publicly portayed as a racist by his principal. He’s going to be forever impacted by this because of a flat out lie about this being a hate crime. She created fear and confussion for an entire community for her own self interest. It’s shocking.  These poor kids have had it hard enough growing up in a pandemic and now they have to deal with narcissism and corruption in their school leadership.
        If the school board allows the principtal to keep her position after this I hope the she comes out with a heartfelt apology, learns from this and tries to see the best in our communities youth and not assume worst. 

  • anonyme November 2, 2021 (1:24 pm)

    What this kid did was really bad taste and showed poor judgment, but
    there are other possibilities that I won’t even pose here, because they
    would be pure speculation.  What was even worse, IMO, was the
    inflammatory rhetoric by those that immediately jumped to unfounded
    accusations of hate, racism, and even “fascist social media tactics”
    toward those who dared to take the stance of wanting to wait for
    evidence.  If the purpose of this is to fan the flames of hatred and
    division, congratulations.  Job well done.  It’s your own hair-trigger
    histrionics that needs to be put in check.

  • TimeForNewLeadership November 4, 2021 (11:52 am)

    Just insane. All of the anger and fear that has resulted from this incident is directly due to this principal intentionally misrepresenting this as a hate crime.  She should be apologizing to all the BIPOC families and the entire community for the trauma she’s caused by these false accusations. 

    Ive always cherished the amazing community and diversity we have had at Pathfinder and felt very fortunate to be part of such an inclusive school. It’s sad to see division and fear being manipulated into our school by one person in leadership. 

    • eric November 6, 2021 (11:48 pm)

      I agree. I think this principal has a bit of growing up to do.  The principal knew the facts but decided it was time for a racism lesson at this child’s expense.  Shame.    Previous admin would have handled this so differently.  To the family involved, I understand and I hope you’re ok. 

  • PF parent November 7, 2021 (8:31 pm)

    Apparently it wasn’t even a noose but a loose hanging jump rope. Yet its still being framed as a “symbol of hate” with three additional community meetings scheduled next week – one for white people, one for black people and the finale for all people. Do we all need this type of segretation? There were already meetings last week for the BIPOC school community. The kid is obviously having serious mental issues and in need of intervention not continued drama so that the community at large can be “educated”.

  • Kimberly Valadez November 10, 2021 (8:54 am)

    After last night’s “white only” affinity group…I’m left feeling even more frustrated that the true story is being glossed over and never publicly addressed…while the school body wants white families to become co-allies of anti-racism…I’m all for anti-racism….and we need to call out racism wherever see it…even when it involves calling out a school pushing a false racist narrative HOURS after they knew the real circumstances. Gaslighting students AND the community. Shameful. If people were privy to the FULL story…a whole different group of marginalized people would be furious! This decision to push a false narrative because “intent doesn’t matter” is total crap and just because people in leadership are POC doesn’t give them a pass for this CHOICE they made to spread fear and alarm falsely while knowing it not to be accurate. In most sane society’s it’s called Lying. That’s what this is.

Sorry, comment time is over.