VIDEO: Community forum reveals what has, and has not happened, since Chief Sealth IHS student’s unsolved shooting death

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“All these changes are good, but where is the student voice in this?”

That was said by one of the few students at tonight’s community-safety forum at Chief Sealth International High School, three months after a student’s shooting death at nearby Southwest Pool/Teen Life Center.

“There needs to be more communication with the students …we’ve been kind of left in the dark,” continued the student, Satomi. “We need to hear ‘we understand that this is tough’ … even for a middle-schooler, they understand the loss, that a sibling or friend could be gone at any time … this is a huge issue because of gun violence.”

Communication was the intent of the forum, organized by the Chief Sealth PTSA and featuring an onstage panel with school and city officials – along with Sealth principal Ray Morales and adjacent Denny International Middle School‘s principal Mary Ingraham, panelists were Seattle Public Schools‘ regional executive director of schools Chris Carter and executive director of operations Marni Campbell, Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Martin Rivera, City Councilmember Rob Saka‘s district-relations director Leyla Gheisar, and Seattle Parks‘ interim recreation-division director Brian Judd and interim deputy superintendent Daisy Catague.

To Satomi’s point, the panel did not include a single student. But the event was intended to listen as well as inform, Morales explained, describing it as a “continuation of a listening session with mostly East African families back on February 1st,” a little over a week after 15-year-old Mobarak Adam‘s death in a restroom at the pool/teen center, Seattle’s first homicide of 2024, for which no one has been arrested.

“There has been some work done” since then, in response to the families’ concerns, Morales said. Campbell – whose portfolio includes school security – said that includes cameras, door alarms, and security staff. This week, she said, they’re finalizing upgrades/maintenance/adjustments on external cameras for Denny/Sealth, and they’ve “worked to identify doors to which they can attach alarms that would go off” if the doors were opened. And in response to a request for more security staff, Campbell said they’ve added another to the Denny/Sealth campus. Security staffers are meant to be “not enforcers necessarily” but additional adults students can go to who can “monitor and track the safety level at all times.”

Judd spoke of a safety team on which the school district and Parks are now collaborating, as well as the much-discussed new camera system (replacing one that hadn’t worked for some time – apparently related to “budget constraints,” he said later). He also said the newly expanded squad of Park Rangers will be assisting with security at Parks facilities “all over the city.”

After about 15 minutes, the microphones on either side of the CSIHS auditorium were open for questions and comments.

First was a man who said he lived nearby and wondered if the campus cameras would work after school. They’re always on, Campbell said, with the district’s central security office monitoring “24/7/365.” The neighbor listed one of his major concerns as driving stunts in the lots “almost every weekend night.” Morales said CSIHS could lock its gates; Ingraham said Denny already does.

The next man said he wanted more direct followup on public safety as well as the specific case: “Mobarak’s life was lost; I stand here because of him.” In particular, he said, he’s worried about gun violence. “What as a collective are you doing?” he said to the panelists. Campbell spoke of “connections” and “walkthroughs” as well as the aforementioned safety team. Capt. Rivera spoke of “collaboration” while also assuring the speaker that the investigation is “still in progress, still active.” He acknowledged that “youth crimes have skyrocketed, way, way above where we used to be” and is the subject of a task force. Though alternatives are also discussed, he said, “at some point we have to take penal action.”

Gheisar said that immediately after the first student-led rally following the shooting, attended by Councilmember Saka, he immediately called Parks Superintendent AP Diaz to ask about the cameras, which were up and running “within two months.” They recognize, Gheisar said, that “one family has lost a child and that is unacceptable.”

Then Satomi spoke for the first time, with the observation that students’ voices weren’t being heard. Panelists offered suggestions of ways to get involved. They missed the point, Satomi said upon returning to the microphone later: “It shouldn’t be on me to find out ways to help my community – it’s important that you come up to us first – it’s really important that YOU are the one to take that first step forward.”

Another speaker, saying he is a Somali immigrant, explained that he’s been working with Denny/Sealth students: “What happened to Mobarak hits closer to my home than anything else – I’ve coached these kids, their brothers, their siblings – some of my findings walking down these hallways. – these kids don’t have a lot of ectracurricular activity they can do after school … I think we need to work on more preventive things – we don’t want a response when things already happened.” He added that it’s not just a school situation – “I talked to the local imam at High Point” – who wanted more access to local parks – “but local parks are being gatekept, Parks & Rec needs to do a better job with people of color, immigrants, to have access … I’m here to bridge a gap so we can all work together.”

The next speaker was a Sealth parent and graduate who said she believed the current controversy over Sealth teacher Ian Golash was “an additional security concern,” that his reported comments on the Israel-Hamas war is “dehumanizing rhetoric and an endorsement of violence and it doesn’t belong in our school … dehumanizing rhetoric creates an unsafe learning environment … his rationalization of violence creates the environment that (leads to) school violence – Mr. Golash misinformed the students and undermined our school’s values and integrity which include critical thinking … I haven’t seen statements from the district but I understand he is not teaching for at least the rest of this academic year.” No one onstage commented on the topic, nor did anyone else bring it up.

Next to speak was a woman who identified herself as a Denny staff member and a “refugee … we left our home, escaped from war, our kids lost their identity.” She said her children spent a lot of time at Southwest Center and it “hurts” to know the cameras weren’t working. Specifically – she addressed this to Judd – she wants Parks to keep students out of its facilities during the school day. “After-school activities, fine … but not during school time – they need to stay in school and be safe.” She also recalled the security concerns raised by some community members before the combined Denny/Sealth campus opened – “they promised there would be four security guards (when it was built) but they didn’t” follow through … “we need to get police back, I don’t care what people say – without police I would not be safe going to my job … Mobarak, we lost, how can we prevent more?”

That was underscored by what Sealth student Addison said next: “There are people dying; this is a dire situation. (This meeting) shouldn’t be something we do just one time, it’s honestly (disappointing) it’s taken three months” to have the discussion. She reiterated the point that students need to be brought into closer communication and collaboration: “There are really only three students in this room right now, and that’s an issue!” At meeting’s end, she also urged administrators and others to pay more attention to students’ mental health, and how they are dealing with something like this: “It was really disheartening to see how some staff dismissed the loss of a student,” some, she said, even suggesting a deadly tragedy was inevitable.

(Mobarak Adam, in family photo)

Mobarak Adam’s father stepped to the microphone next. He asked the panelists how they felt about the law that – as reported by The Seattle Times – kept investigators from early questioning of those who were with his son at the time of the deadly shooting. “They were there with my son, they saw something, or they were involved, but police were prevented from questioning those kids … we are hurting. Even if a minor is a killer, the law should not be protecting the killer. I think that law should be repealed. How do you feel about that law?”

Capt. Rivera responded, suggesting legislators might not have thought through the potential effects. “This happens a lot – legislators will pass a law and it goes out and they get feedback and they might change it at another time – that’s the process we’re in now – juveniles have more protection – (entitled to a) lawyer before they’re questioned – in investigations, especially homicides, those initial moments are very important.” But, he stressed, the investigation remains “proactive and active – we did identify everybody who was involved and they’ve been interviewed.”

In closing the forum after an hour and a half, Morales invited those who might judge his school by this alone to come tour the campus – perhaps with a student guide. “You might be surprised.”

As for what happens next, the event itself suggested one potential outcome – more communication at all levels.

19 Replies to "VIDEO: Community forum reveals what has, and has not happened, since Chief Sealth IHS student's unsolved shooting death"

  • TheArroyos April 17, 2024 (12:46 am)

    Agree three months should not have passed before such a forum…would more students have shown up?  

  • OverlyFocusedOnCameras April 17, 2024 (1:17 am)

    While I’m all for working cameras, it wouldn’t have made a difference in this case as they’d never be allowed in the bathroom where the shooting took place. And as mentioned, there isn’t a question in who was in there. But if everyone is lawyered-up and no one involved is willing to spill the beans, why are people surprised that there hasn’t been any movement in the case? That’s the real issue here – you need at least something to prosecute in a court of law.

    • Midi April 17, 2024 (9:57 am)

      Cameras wouldn’t be in the restroom, but they would have shown who was with the deceased when they entered the community center and/or if someone entered right after him

  • Tom April 17, 2024 (7:01 am)

    I listened to this whole talk…No one asked the hard questions that needed to be asked, and maybe this wasn’t the correct forum for it.  Now I wish I could have attended to ask the hard questions, but I was unavailable.  Here is what I think we need to know as a community…Have the kids involved been identified?Who owned the gun?  Who pulled the trigger?Why were they not in school at the time, since it was not a passing hour or lunch hour?Are these students that were involved in this shooting still in school right now?Apparently we can’t ask these questions though because of changes to ours laws involving lawyer representation.  I don’t understand this myself, but apparently we can’t interview kids involved in crimes anymore.  And there hasn’t been any prosecution because of it and it seems these kids involved go free.Cameras don’t save lives, though I know that everyone is hyper-focused on that. These kids were not in a school space during school hours (not lunch) and have to answer these questions.  Its not real a Park & Rec issue or a security issue with the SWTLC  building.  This is an issue with the school not having authority over these kids and our inability as a city to interview these students involved in this incident.

    • WSB April 17, 2024 (11:19 am)

      If you read the story again, we quote the captain as saying they’ve all been interviewed. The problem is that they couldn’t be interviewed immediately afterward, when, the captain said, the most useful information is often gleaned.

  • SLJ April 17, 2024 (7:14 am)

    If someone who knows the family can pass on this info for the kids, it’s a childhood grief organization. I highly recommend Camp Erin.

  • Denny mom April 17, 2024 (8:32 am)

    Thanks to everyone that showed up to this important meeting. I hope more will be done in Chief Sealth and Denny too to get the community involved more.  I was sad to see not many in he audience but not surprised either. How do we get folks to get involved in their community more and make it a safer place to live? How about offer pizza and or weekly /monthly  meet ups for parents and students at the school to discuss safety concerns. Everyone works and a lot of people cant always make these meetings. Maybe if they offer dinner or snacks or  something to draw folks and motivate them more will come and community discussion can happen more which is so important. I think 1 meeting 3 months after this tragedy  is disappointing but its a start, lets keep the community input coming!! Thanks to everyone that spoke up , your voice is so important to spark change. And my condolences to the family of the child that was killed may his passing spark change and hope for this community.

    • Mom April 17, 2024 (9:29 pm)

      I’m curious about how this was shared. I received nothing from the district and my son’s elementary school is just a few blocks away and this is our assigned high school. I follow many school and parenting groups/lists and heard nothing about this until after the fact. How was it publicized at the schools? Did Talking Points messages go home? I’m sure food would help, but from my perspective, the attendance was a direct result of it being poorly advertised. 

      • Mom too April 17, 2024 (9:59 pm)

        I’m a Denny mom and I didn’t get Talking Points about this meeting. Maybe it was in the looong weekly newsletter. 

        • Denny and Sealth parent April 18, 2024 (9:33 am)

          I’m a Denny and Sealth parent. The only time we heard about the meeting was buried in an email hours before meeting started. I would have attended but with such short notice I couldn’t make it work. 

    • Michelle Ransom, CSIHS PTSA April 18, 2024 (5:41 pm)

      Hi all – thanks for attending and for your comments about the Community Safety meeting. In addition to communications sent from the school, a great way to stay informed about what’s happening in the Chief Sealth Community is to join the Chief Sealth Community Facebook page. Parents, caregivers, and community members are also encouraged to join the Chief Sealth PTSA – we are an extremely lean group of volunteers and always welcome additional support, resources, and expertise. The PTSA deeply appreciates the community care for our school, community, and most especially, our students. 

  • flimflam April 17, 2024 (9:41 am)

    The fact that the police couldn’t question the witnesses is insane and another level of tragedy for the family of Mobarak. 

    • k April 17, 2024 (12:39 pm)

      There are SO many kids who end up in prison with false confessions or other coerced statements after being questioned by police without a lawyer.  They are young and suggestible and scared, and creating a system where we’re locking up a bunch of innocent kids to avoid making the cops’ job harder is not something we should be in favor of.  My heart goes out to Mubarak’s family, but changing a law that is in place for a VERY good reason will have major consequences for a lot of other youth.

  • Do Your Job Parents April 17, 2024 (9:48 am)

    What exactly are the teachers and the school supposed to do here?  This is a failure of parenting, 100%. 

    • Curtis April 17, 2024 (8:51 pm)

      Surely you are not serious.  For starters, the school could expel the murderers, and not allow them back in school where they could kill again.

  • Christopher B. April 17, 2024 (10:51 am)

    The kind of communication I’d like to see would be for the first-hand witnesses to this homicide to be compelled by the court to reveal to investigators what they know.  

    • NWAsianGuy April 17, 2024 (7:57 pm)

      They have the right to remain silent…and exercising that right per lawyer recommendations. 

      • bradley April 18, 2024 (11:44 am)

        And they can live with their conscience.

  • steven April 18, 2024 (3:19 pm)

    separately re the car stunts at the school, why do parks/school staff keep saying they lock those gates? I do not think the school/parks understand where it’s happening: its the lot that is for the football field and the SW pool/teen center. that lot does not have gates even to be locked. it’s wide open Hence the reckless driving that occurs there. I’ll see if there is contact info for the folks above to clarify. 

Sorry, comment time is over.