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King County prosecutors have notified schools of 69 felony gun charges against students

caption: Two semi-automatic handguns Seattle police say they seized while arresting a 17-year-old in Rainier Beach on May 11, 2024.
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Two semi-automatic handguns Seattle police say they seized while arresting a 17-year-old in Rainier Beach on May 11, 2024.
Courtesy of the Seattle Police Department

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has started notifying schools when students are charged with felonies involving guns. The Safer Schools Strategy began this school year, partly in response to campus shootings.

While some youths facing gun-related charges are in detention, others are out on electronic home monitoring and may be required to attend school.

Jamie Kvistad, a senior deputy prosecutor who leads the county program, said since the fall her office has notified schools about 69 felony gun charges against students, including armed robberies, shootings and gun possession.

“So that the school really kind of comprehensively understood what was going on with this child, so that they could look at the risk factors, look at protective factors, do that statutory-required threat assessment and build a really comprehensive safety plan,” Kvistad explained.

Students who have guns when they're arrested have those guns seized. Minors are not legally allowed to carry weapons and those charged with crimes typically are not allowed to have weapons as part of their release. But they are often able to obtain guns despite those restrictions.

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Kvistad said schools can work with juveniles’ probation counselors to ensure they comply with the terms of their release. Those can involve having no contact with students with whom they were arrested or have had conflict.

Ashley Boyd, assistant director for prevention and intervention services for Auburn School District, said by email that the partnership with the prosecutors’ office “reflects a mutual investment in the success of our students, staff, and community through creative problem-solving, strategic communication, and belief in the potential of our youth and their future.”

A recent spike in juvenile crime comes as the county works to reduce the rate of youth detention. As of this year, young people charged with serious crimes are more likely to be placed on electronic home monitoring than detained.

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While the prosecutors’ office has taken a lead role in lowering the rate of juvenile detention, Kvistad said prosecutors often want youths charged with gun crimes locked up for public safety.

“We don't want to see a child returned to a similarly dangerous situation and replicate the same behavior,” Kvistad said. “We face constant challenges to making these arguments to the judges.”

Just this week, she said, a student at Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way had a first court appearance for charges involving a “ghost” gun — pieced together from components, with no serial number, so untraceable — with an extended magazine.

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with a fatal shooting in May in Pioneer Square, and the suspect in last week's fatal shooting of a student at Garfield High School remains at large. The suspect in the Garfield shooting is also believed to be a teenager.

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Kentridge High School in Kent went on lockdown Wednesday after a student brought a gun to school.

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