Tag Archives: Washington State

My vacation is almost over…

I left Oklahoma early last week to go back to Washington state to visit family and friends. Thought I’d share some pictures with you!

A Vote Trump flag in western Washington! (And I saw a lot more Trump signs in eastern Washington.)

My dad’s dog Fluffy ready for fun!

A rainbow over eastern Washington.

Just outside of Creston in eastern Washington.

The view from my friend’s home along the Columbia River.

My friend’s German Shepherds surveying their territory.

One of the doggies checking in on me at 2:38 am in the morning 😀

So far a wonderful trip. I’ll be back to Oklahoma soon!

DCG

Highline School District struggles with fallout after limiting student suspensions

This program was supported by the same school superintendent that sent letters to parents calling for inclusion because she had received reports from staff that students have been repeating language they heard from presidential candidates in the media (mainly Trump). Looks like her “progressive” ways aren’t that successful.

highline2

From Seattle Times: When Jasmine Kettler kissed her mother goodbye at Sea-Tac Airport and boarded a plane to Bangkok last month, she carried nothing but a backpack, laptop and memories so traumatic that the former Highline High School teacher had purchased no return ticket.

Her plans are fluid. She may volunteer in a refugee camp on the Burmese border. She could spend a few months in a Thai monastery. The only firm agenda: healing from what she describes as three years of constant frustration and fear as a Highline teacher.

The pack-up-and-leave solution may be extreme, but Kettler is among more than 200 educators who had resigned from the district as of June, many saying Highline’s new approach to student discipline has created outright chaos.

The turmoil of the past school year didn’t help, with an alleged gang rape, several student deaths and criminal charges, including murder, for a group of boys not yet out of middle school. Six of the 19 homicide charges filed this year in King County have been brought against current or recent Highline students.

Veteran teachers are shaking their heads. Three years ago, Highline sat poised at the leading edge of a national effort to rethink the way schools handle misbehavior, based on evidence that booting kids out results mainly in their return to class angrier and more behind than ever — if they return at all.

Superintendent Susan Enfield

Superintendent Susan Enfield

Superintendent Susan Enfield, an ambitious and visionary schools chief, vowed to eliminate such punitive sanctions, except in cases that jeopardized campus safety. Instead, Highline would keep its students on campus — even if they cursed at teachers, fought with peers or threw furniture — attempting to address the roots of their behavior through a combination of counseling and academic triage.

The outcry that has emerged since reveals a vast gulf between announcing ideals and making them real.

Early signs of trouble

Kettler, like many, initially thought Enfield’s progressive-minded approach was inspiring, even brilliant. The phys-ed teacher considered it a personal mission to help break the well-documented connection between sending kids out of school through old-fashioned discipline and seeing them end up in jail cells, a pattern known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Across Lake Washington in Bellevue, similar concerns have spurred that district to spend an extra $160,000 this year on substance-abuse counselors and mediation training. Schools in Renton, Kent and Federal Way are experimenting with “restorative practices,” which fosters deep conversation between students and teachers.

But Highline has focused on in-school suspension. Rather than tossing kids for defiant behavior, teachers were expected to manage their outbursts in class, and refer chronic misbehavers to a kind of super study hall where an academic coach would get them back on track and connect those who needed it to counseling.

Over three years, from 2013 to 2016, expulsion and home suspensions in the district, which once totaled 2,100 incidents annually, plummeted 77 percent, to 475 last June, and Enfield began receiving applause throughout the region for her work on behalf of marginalized youth.

Data from Highline Public Schools

Data from Highline Public Schools

But in Highline classrooms, trouble cropped up immediately. Teachers had received little or no training on de-escalation techniques to use in their classrooms. Each school interpreted the new discipline rules differently. And in a district of 20,000 mostly poor kids, a single truancy officer was employed to ensure they attended class.

“I’ve never seen a kid come back from in-school suspension caught up,” said Kristina Smethers, an art teacher at Mount Rainier High. “In fact, they seemed to get worse, as if they really didn’t consider it much of a consequence.”

“Learning as we go”

Enfield acknowledges some missteps. It was a mistake, she said, to use the phrase “eliminate suspension” because the district always intended that principals would send kids home if they harmed staff or other students.

In-school suspension, she added, should not necessarily have been led by certified educators. But rather, people who could connect with kids. And classroom teachers could have benefitted from more training up front.

“We were kind of flying blind at first,” Enfield said. “I feel confident that we’re not giving suspensions for the wrong reasons anymore. Now we need to make sure what’s happening when they’re in the building is going right. We’re learning as we go.”

This year, she promises instruction for all educators on the effects of trauma, and how to defuse the explosive behaviors that often result. Simultaneously, those running Highline’s in-school suspension programs will follow up with kids to ensure they remain on track. Return visits will be seen as a red flag signaling the need for more serious corrections.

But overall, Enfield remains unapologetic about her belief that much of the responsibility for handling difficult students rests with teachers. “We are telling them, ‘You no longer get to write kids off.’ For some people, that’s been a struggle,” she said.

By way of example, she told the story of a seventh-grader who had cursed her teacher, pulled a hood over her head and refused to speak — all of it behavior that once would have resulted in a home suspension for defiance.

“What’s going on?” an assistant principal asked, after the girl was sent to the office.

For 20 minutes, the teen made no sound. Then a few tears dribbled down her face. She had been raped by her stepfather that morning, Enfield later learned. “What if it was three years ago and we had sent her home — back to that hell?” said the superintendent, tearing up herself. “I’d act out too if I was 13 and that was happening to me.”

Leaving in droves

Educators may be leaving by the score, but that also does not concern Enfield, who says turnover rates of 10 to 11 percent are standard in Highline.

Teachers union President Sue McCabe, however, sees those 200 resignations as evidence of a much deeper issue. This spring, 23 educators left Highline High School — almost 30 percent of the staff. Another 20 left Mount Rainier High, a quarter of the teaching force. This year, the entire science department at Global Connections High School is new.

“We have a morale problem,” McCabe said. “Rather than fighting for their students, or for themselves, people are leaving. Two hundred educators resigning — that’s a lot, no matter how ‘normal’ it is.

Read the whole story here.

DCG

Washington State AG wants to ban “assault weapons”

AG Ferguson working hard to protect your Second Amendment rights...

AG Ferguson working hard to protect your Second Amendment rights…

From MyNorthwest.com: Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson wants to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, his office announced Wednesday.

Ferguson’s office said the AG will submit agency request legislation in the 2017 legislative session to ban certain weapons. The bill would ban weapons such as the AR-15 and limit magazine capacity to a maximum of 10 rounds of ammunition — the state currently does not have a limit.

“The recent tragedy in Mukilteo drives home the need to act with urgency to end the availability of weapons designed with only one purpose — to kill people,” Ferguson said. “I have a duty to protect the public, as well as uphold the constitution. My proposal will ban some of the deadliest weapons, while respecting the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

Three people were killed and one person was injured when a 19-year-old began shooting during a party in Mukilteo in July. Police say Allen Ivanov used a semi-automatic AR-15.

Sen. David Frockt (D-46) and Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-40) are working with Ferguson to craft the legislation.

Ferguson’s proposal targets sales, not current ownership. The legislation would not require registration of existing weapons.

molon labe

DCG

A group of about 30 people paint “kill cops” messages on downtown Olympia buildings

Proggies being proggies.

olympia kill cops

From Q13Fox: A group of about 30 people made their way through downtown Olympia on Sunday night, painting messages on buildings advocating killing police, Olympia PD said.

Police said the group traveled down Fourth Avenue painting messages along the lines of “kill cops.” No arrests were made and nobody was hurt.

Police are going through video surveillance from various businesses in hopes of identifying suspects. Most of the people involved were wearing masks, however.

KOMO 4 News has more details:

The small group created huge problems during the march. One person launched fireworks while others tagged up walls along Fourth Avenue. The most disturbing messages included calls to kill police officers.

“Doing it in downtown just isn’t very effective because it affects small businesses that want to help,” said Raven Fire, who works at Dumpster Values clothing store.

Employees are frustrated by the graffiti on their building is frustrating since they want more police accountability too.

“I don’t think that being destructive is necessarily the way to deal with it, but I get why they are doing it,” Fire said.

“I think it’s people that just want to be angry,” Fire said. “They’re not thinking it through clearly.”

DCG

Mukilteo shooter’s lawyer says tragedy was ‘compounded by the tools’ available

Maybe the lawyer should take his grievances to the Washington State Legislature, who writes the laws concerning firearm ownership for young adults in Washington. Or maybe his client was intent on committing a crime, regardless of the methods available to him.

The perp Allen Ivanov

The perp Allen Ivanov

From MyNorthwest.com: The lawyer of a 19-year-old accused of killing three people during a party in Mukilteo (Washington) took time in court to note how easy it was for his client to get his hands on a gun. “It’s a tragedy,” Attorney Tim Leary told KIRO Radio. “And in many respects, it’s a tragedy compounded by the tools that were available in this incident.”

Allen Ivanov allegedly went to a party July 30 with an AR-15 rifle and opened fire. Three people, including his ex-girlfriend, were killed. A fourth person was injured.

Ivanov seemed depressed recently after he and his ex-girlfriend broke up. He reportedly did not like seeing is ex-girlfriend with other men.

Leary stressed in court that his client was able to buy a gun at the age of 19. “It’s not black or white,” Leary said. “Obviously, if he didn’t have the firearm this could have been a different case. Is the firearm responsible? Well, no.”

KIRO 7 reports that Ivanov could face the death penalty.

“Ultimately, the state is going to bring evidence that suggests my client is the person responsible,” he said. “But is this what really makes the most sense — when we have a situation where we talk about brain development, and kids, and mental illness and a whole host of issues — to have an AR-15 that is that readily accessible, the stakes and the consequences are that much higher?”

As he spoke for the accused Mukilteo shooter in court, Leary noted that the age to consume alcohol is 21, but people can buy guns at the age of 18.

“The thing that struck me in this case is that my client, who is 19 years old, is accused of a horrific crime and it’s alleged that he purchased an AR-15 when he was 19,” Leary said. “Somebody who is 19 years old, if he would have attempted to buy a six-pack of beer on his way to this party, he would have been turned away.”

Leary said that there were incidents of depression in the past for Ivanov, but he did not have the exact timeline as it relates to the shooting.

“Let’s say that he went in the morning he purchased the firearm and a doctor said he was suffering from a major depressive disorder — that would not be a bar from possessing or owning a firearm,” Leary said.

“There’s a reason why we have this endless debate – there are no easy answers,” Leary said. “This is just not a good situation, and it’s a situation made worse by the weapon that he possessed.”

“I’m just noting the disturbing fact that we don’t trust 20-year-olds to own, possess or consume alcohol, but they could walk in and buy an AR-15 with no training at all — no significant background inquiry,” he said.

Leary said that he has received pushback after his comment in court about the availability of the firearm. He said that people argue that 19-year-olds can serve in the military and handle guns — the same age as the alleged Mukilteo shooter.

“I don’t necessarily disagree,” Leary said. “Whether you were drafted to go to Vietnam, or you volunteered and served in Iraq – there’s a selection process and psychological screening and an immense amount of training and respect that goes into handling a firearm.”

(FYI: Washington State requires no training to purchase a firearm. If you want a conceal carry permit you don’t need to take a class, either. Yet when I moved to Oklahoma, I was required to undergo a written test of the laws to obtain my conceal carry. I was exempt from the range class because I had a conceal carry permit from Washington State.)

On the other hand, Leary said his client was unfamiliar with the AR-15, and reportedly read the gun’s user manual in the car before he allegedly carried out his shooting.

“The police reports suggest that my client read an instruction manual on how to operate the gun before he went into that house,” Leary said. “Ultimately, my client’s responsibility will be determined down the road. But is this the best system, and what can we learn from this situation? The loss, in this case, is immeasurable to my client’s family, to the victims and their families, and the community as a whole.”

FYI: From my Legally Armed 2 book (published in 2015) it is noted from the Revised Code of Washington: “9.41.240 Possession of pistol by person from eighteen to twenty-one: Unless an exception under RCW 9.41.042, 9.41.050, or 9.41.060 applies, a person at least eighteen years of age, but less than twenty-one years of age, may possess a pistol only: (1) In the person’s place of abode; (2) At the person’s fixed place of business; or (3) on real property under his or her control.”

DCG

Washington State teacher ‘abandoned’ students on field trip, keeps his job

The union backed the teacher, of course.

Teacher Noam Gungle

Teacher Noam Gundle

From MyNorthwest.com (by Jason Rantz): A Ballard High School teacher remains on the job, even after an investigation found he “abandoned” high school students on an overnight field trip with no one but one of the student’s 19-year-old boyfriend.

Why did he leave them? So he could attend a Seattle teacher’s union protest.

Seattle School Superintendent Larry Nyland

Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland

Even though the Seattle Public School District recommended Noam Gundle (who has a rating of just 2.16 out of 5 on ratemyteachers.com) be fired for conduct that put these students “at great risk…,” Seattle Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland imposed just a 10-day unpaid suspension and he won’t explain why. Meanwhile, Gundle still has his job.

Gundle took students on a two-night trip to Deception Pass for his Oceanography class on May 17, 2015. Gundle explained to his students prior to the field trip that it would be cut from two nights to one night so he could attend the SEA (Seattle Education Association) Walk Out union protest.

Seattle teachers doing their yearly strike...

Seattle teachers doing their yearly strike…

While the majority of his students left with him and other chaperones after the one night, Gundle allowed five students to remain at the campsite without approved adult supervision, nor permission from all the student’s parents. In fact, the only adult around was one student’s 19-year-old boyfriend. This raised serious safety and judgment concerns according to the investigative documents.

Gundle, who is active in supporting union causes, justified his decision by telling the school:

Just as I am not responsible for students and their behavior when the [sic] leave school, I am not responsible for their actions after they leave my care. It was clear that when left, they were no longer in my care. Their parents were aware, they gave permission and the field trip was over.

Actually, it wasn’t clear. The investigation reveals Gundle did not commit to the legwork necessary to allow for this kind of unchaperoned overnight trip. The exhaustive investigation found that he “made no official announcement before he departed [the field trip] and never indicated that the field trip was officially over.”

Further, in his written statement to the school, he claimed he “received permission from each student’s parent for the student to spend the extra night.” This was absolutely not true, according to the investigation, and even if it were, he did not have the schools’ permission to leave the students to spend an extra night without a chaperone. Further, the district found he didn’t even know how the students who spent the extra night would get home from the field trip.

Gundle admitted he doesn’t remember speaking with one of the parents, but said he “…remembered that [the student] told him that her mother said it was okay.” The investigation found he did not have parental permission for this student.

In fact, the night before the scheduled field trip, the investigation found one mother emailed Gundle to explain it would be inappropriate for him to cut short a class activity so he might attend a union protest.

Gundle admits he didn’t read the email until four days later. He did, however, reply telling her that the students weren’t missing that much with his decision to cut the field trip short.

This is not where Gundle’s rule violations ended. The investigation found:

  1. Gundle did not properly list all the trip’s chaperones with the school;
  2. He allowed student drivers to transport classmates to Deception Pass without permission from the school nor the parents;
  3. He allowed two students to drive on their own to Deception Pass, without school permission nor parental consent (one student did not have access to a seatbelt in the car);
  4. He did not obtain permission from the school to leave the students behind.

Days after the field trip, on May 22, Gundle was placed on paid administrative leave as the district investigated.

On June 18, 2015, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Brent C. Jones wrote to Gundle to explain that the recommendation from the district that “there is probable cause to terminate your employment as a teacher for abandoning students during a District sponsored overnight field trip.”

Gundle fought the recommendation with the help of his union representative, arguing the termination was too harsh. After meeting with Superintendent Nyland, Gundle successfully lobbied to avoid termination, instead earning just a 10-day suspension without pay. He was also told he couldn’t host overnight field trips for two years, nor day field trips for one year.

This light punishment raises significant questions. If Nyland believes Gundle’s actions put the students’ safety at great risk, and the district’s HR department recommended termination, how did the punishment get reduced so dramatically? Nyland isn’t answering any questions.

After a protracted back-and-forth, Seattle Public Schools’ only comment is: “Seattle Public Schools cannot comment on personnel issues.” When asked how often recommendations are overturned by Nyland, the district refused to answer, instead referring to their previous statement. Gundle, similarly, did not respond for comment after multiple attempts to reach him.

But we know this: according to the district’s own investigation, Gundle put students’ safety at great risk, but he’s still teaching and will soon be able to take students on field trips once again.

DCG

New gun restriction could be headed for Washington State ballot

I-1491 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin (r). Photo from her LinkedIn bio.

I-1491 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin (r). Photo from her LinkedIn bio.

Via Seattle Times: Supporters of a proposed ballot measure in Washington state that would create protection orders to take guns from people deemed a serious threat to themselves or others turned in more than 330,000 signatures to the secretary of state Thursday.

Initiative 1491, backed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, comes after legislative efforts to create “extreme risk” protection orders failed earlier this year. Stephanie Ervin, I-1491’s campaign manager, said that the initiative creates “an import tool for families and law enforcement to prevent crisis from turning into tragedy.”

Under the measure, concerned family or household members or police can petition the court by filing an affidavit stating specific concerns, such as mental illness or domestic violence, and the number and types of firearms owned. Following a court hearing, if the court finds evidence that a person poses a danger to themselves or others by having a firearm, they can have their guns taken away and be prevented from buying a firearm for up to one year.

Only three states — California, Indiana and Connecticut — have enacted similar laws. California passed its bill after the mass shooting in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Marilyn Balcerak, whose son fatally shot his stepsister and then himself in Auburn last year, said she knew her son was suicidal, but that she was powerless to prevent their deaths. “I did everything I could to keep him from getting a gun, and even went to the police, but was twice turned down,” she said. “If extreme-risk protection orders had been law just two years ago, those police officers I talked to would have been able to help me.”

Messages left with the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation were not immediately returned Thursday.

An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the Secretary of State’s Office suggests at least 325,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures. The signature validation process is expected to take a few weeks.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility was also behind a 2014 ballot measure, approved by voters that year, which requires background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including private transactions and many loans and gifts. Maine and Nevada both have universal background check measures on the ballot this November.

John Feinblatt from Everytown for Gun Safety

John Feinblatt from Everytown for Gun Safety

“For too long, there has been a disconnect between what the American people demand on gun safety and how American politicians vote,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, wrote in an emailed statement. “In 2014, we took this issue to the people of Washington State for an up-or-down vote — and they spoke loud and clear to prevent gun violence by requiring background checks for all gun sales.

The initiative (which is 21 pages) has some text that is questionable, in my opinion. For example:

  • An action under this chapter must be filed in the county where the petitioner resides or the county where the respondent resides. This means that someone living on the west side of the state could be forced to defend themselves in a court on the east side of the state.
  • A petition must: a) Allege that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to self or others by having in his or her custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm, and be accompanied by an affidavit made under oath stating the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by the respondent. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Isn’t there a higher burden of proof if you are going into a courtroom already “guilty” of an incident?
  • SERVICE BY PUBLICATION OR MAIL. (1) The court may order service by publication or service by mail under the circumstances permitted for such service in RCW 7.90.052, 7.90.053, 26.50.123, or 26.50.085. Service by mail or publishing in a newspaper may be enough. Therefore, the gun owner may have no idea that there is even a hearing before their rights are taken away.

There’s several other items in this initiative:

  • The court can consider threats, even if they don’t involve a firearm.
  • The court may consider use of controlled substances, whether or not it is related to any firearms. FYI: Marijuana is legal in Washington State.
  • The recent purchase of a firearm may be grounds for a protection order.
  • One of the factors for consideration by the Court is “The respondent’s ownership, access to, or intent to possess firearms.” So if you intended to own a firearm, the court can restrict that right?

There appears to be a lot of leniency in the Court’s hands here. Slippery slope.

DCG