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‘Safety shouldn’t be a privilege.’ Garfield High parents demand action after student was shot

caption: Garfield High School on June 5, 2023
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Garfield High School on June 5, 2023
KUOW Photo / Sami West

Garfield High School parents want Seattle leaders to do more to protect students after a 17-year-old was shot in the leg nearby the school last week.

Some parents have organized a “protect and protest'' event Wednesday, exactly one week after the student was shot. Organizers invited the community to protest at each corner of 23rd Avenue at 2:10 p.m., before school ends, to help them bring awareness to the ongoing gun violence in the area.

RELATED: What can be done to prevent further gun violence in or near Seattle schools?

“Our kid's lives are at stake every single day,” said Melanie Skinner, one of the parents organizing the protest outside Garfield High. “God, I’ll try not to cry, but I just — I feel like [Seattle’s Central District] is a community that nobody cares about.”

Parents and community members want city leaders and Seattle Public Schools to take stronger action to protect students and the larger Central District community. They told KUOW they feel like they have to do something to make it clear that something must be done about escalating violence they are witnessing.

“It should not be a privilege to have safety. [It] should be offered to all students," said another Garfield parent, whose name we're not disclosing to protect their child's privacy.

For Skinner, the tension and concern for safety is constantly on her mind.

“I think about it every morning, sending my daughter off to school,” she said. “Like, is she going to be killed today? Is that terrible? I mean, that's how I feel.”

According to a Seattle Police Department statement, the shooting on March 13 was not connected to a homicide that happened later in the day near 24th Avenue South and South Main Street. Investigators are still looking for a suspect. The student who was shot in the leg was not the intended target, according to police.

Newly elected Seattle City Councilmember Tanya Woo attended the East Precinct Advisory Council meeting Monday night, where many Garfield High parents showed up to voice their concerns and talk about solutions.

RELATED: How local youth are taking on school gun violence

“We have a brand new City Council, and our priority is public safety,” Woo said. “It permeates everything … And these shootings near our schools are at the top of our minds.”

Woo shared some of the solutions parents brought up during the meeting ahead of the “protect and protest” event Wednesday, including the use of firearm trigger locks, looking at Seattle’s Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, and how best to use cameras and police officers outside school. Woo said parents also suggested looking at bus schedules to make sure kids are getting on their buses and leaving the area after school.

In a statement, the Seattle Police Department said they’ll continue with an enhanced presence around Garfield High to ensure safety for everyone.

Correction, 9:15 a.m., 3/20/2024: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that the Seattle Police Department believes the shooting on March 13, in which a Garfield High student was shot, was connected to a homicide that happened later in the day. SPD does not believe the shootings were connected.

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