SEATTLE — Garfield High School in Seattle moved to remote learning Friday due to safety concerns after recent shootings in the neighborhood, as the nation recognizes Gun Violence Awareness Day.
In a message to families and staff, Garfield High School Principal Tarance Hart announced Friday’s move to remote learning was “out of an abundance of caution.” All after-school, evening and weekend activities on the Garfield campus have also been canceled. The Teen Life Center was also closed Friday.
“The safety and well-being of the Garfield community is our top priority,” Hart said in the message. “We know the increase in violence in our community has raised concerns for students, families, and staff.”
The move to remote learning comes a day after school closed early due to “threats that appeared to be related to dismissal time and after school.”
Hart said the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Public Schools security were on campus and in the neighborhood during Thursday’s early dismissal and that no incidents were seen or reported.
The “increase of violence” Hart mentioned in his message comes after three separate shootings near Garfield High School, all in May alone.
On May 18, Seattle police responded to a shooting outside the Teen Life Center that injured a 19-year-old.
On May 24, Seattle police discovered several shell casings and a car with bullet holes two blocks away from the Garfield campus. Seattle police reported a teen, later identified as a 16-year-old, was dropped off at a nearby hospital in stable condition with a gunshot wound.
On May 26, a Seattle police officer working at the Teen Life Center reported hearing gunfire in the area. Responding officers reportedly found a man outside the center with multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
All of the shootings are still being investigated.
Additionally, the Seattle Police Department announced it will be conducting emphasis patrols around Garfield High School to “assist in protecting public safety in the community, deter possible criminal activity, prevent violence, and address suspicious behavior seen and/or reported.”
Police will also be patrolling the 9400 block of Rainier Avenue South.
Friday also marks National Gun Violence Awareness Day. National Gun Violence Awareness Day takes place on the first Friday in June and kicks off Wear Orange Weekend, which has become the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement.
“When it comes to these teenagers, it’s really easy for them to put on that suit of armor,” said Jaawell Faggins who is the Area Director of the organization Mentoring Urban Students and Teenagers or ‘MUST.’
Faggins said its focus is to mentor black boys, “It’s really important to have people that understand.”
Faggins was supposed to chaperone a field trip for teens at Garfield High School.
“Just doing my weekly run up here and I come and see the parking lot is empty,” he said.
Garfield High School Principal Tarance Hart dismissed students early on Thursday due to a threat, and on Friday the campus closed. All students had online classes.
“The kids are so young, they’re going through so much just on their way to school,” said Faggins.
There have been three shootings within 8 days near Garfield. On May 18, a 19-year-old was shot outside the Teen Life Center.
“One of the boys in our program was right there when it happened,” Faggins said.
Joseph Kliegman lives nearby and said he hears the gunshots. Kliegman remembers hearing the screams from students after the May 18 shooting.
“I worry about the collateral damage, but mostly, I worry about the students and what they’re going through,” he said.
Shootings in the Central District have gone up substantially since 2021. Seattle Police Department data only goes through April, but shows there were two shootings in 2021. So far this year, there have been 11.
“You have to put it in the forefront that this stuff is not normal. And these aren’t adults, these are children,” said Faggins.
A student at Garfield sent KING5 a message saying she is glad the school district took action and is disappointed in how Seattle is handling gun violence. They ended the message by saying, “I no longer feel safe at my school.”
“It’s a shame because, at their age, they should only be concerned about going to school, getting their work done and graduating high school,” said Faggins.
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