Students ran into a huge problem while trying to attend school for in-person learning: massive homeless encampments on school grounds. The school board president and one of its directors released a joint statement and made a few demands of the mayor, which outraged some parents, guardians, and area residents.
Two members of the Seattle School Board were indignant with the mayor’s office conducting “sweeps” to clear out homeless camps and relocate the individuals residing in them. As such, they decided to utilize their positions of power to enact social justice, declaring the school grounds across the city safe spaces in which the City was “never” allowed to carry out a sweep.
Unfortunately, the youngest members of the community reaped the consequences. Students arrived at Broadview Thomson K-8 in Bitter Lake and Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill to discover that their school grounds were overtaken by homeless people.
According to a series of emails, Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson and Director Zachary DeWolf demanded that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office not sweep homeless camps on and around school grounds, as reported by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. DeWolf insisted that the City “never” again conduct a sweep on school property because it’s too traumatic for homeless individuals, reiterating that “this is not an ask for a sweep!”
“We demand sweeps NEVER be performed on school grounds, adjacent or elsewhere in this City,” they wrote.
Thanks to Hampson and DeWolf’s demand, the camp at Meany Middle School rose to over 40 tents and continued to grow. Some students were forced to walk through the camps in order to get to school.
Drug paraphernalia and weapons found in the homeless encampments on school grounds are a threat to students. According to a teacher at Meany Middle School, a homeless resident pulled a knife on a custodian. The safety and security specialist also had several dangerous encounters with individuals squatting outside the gym and around Miller Playfield.
In an attempt to regain control of their campuses, Hampson and DeWolf demanded that the City give the homeless help and support instead of simply clearing them out. The City responded that all of the individuals living in the encampments were offered shelter and assistance, but the squatters still refused to leave.
Realizing the problem she helped to create, Hampson wrote the City, requesting help but still insisting that no sweeps are conducted. Disturbingly, she admitted that areas on the school grounds have become “unsanitary” as discarded “needles” litter the ground up to the gym.
“At Meany, we are asking for the City’s support in confirming the property boundaries between SPS and City property at Meany, so that SPS can place appropriate signs with respect to the permitted uses of its property,” Hampson wrote. “We are also asking for the City’s support in helping clear access to the school, and safe and healthy routes to and from the school. Specific concerns include: tents and other belongings against the wall of the gym and near the walking path on the south end of the school, including a sleeping bag across the door to the gym; the porta potty on 21st Avenue immediately adjacent to the school, with discarded clothing and unsanitary conditions around it; and tents at the bottom of the stairs from the Parks and Rec parking lot down to Miller Playfield – a likely path to school for students coming down from 19th Avenue – where needles were visible.”
Understandably, parents were outraged over the state of the campuses and concerned for the safety of their children. Theft, violence, and drugs plagued the encampments, posing a set of problems for school officials. In fact, community members confirmed that a homeless woman living in one of the camps died of a drug overdose and that “her body remained in the middle of the street for hours,” a local resident told KOMO.
The school board members endangered their students, staff, and community with their ignorance. Their concern for the homeless clouded their judgment, directly allowing the threat of violence, sexual abuse, and drugs toward the children.
The vast majority of homeless individuals suffer from mental illness and drug abuse, which provides a dangerous and deadly cocktail for the community. Allowing the homeless to waste away in their filth and addiction on school grounds isn’t compassionate for them, and it certainly isn’t caring for the children, who are supposed to be the school’s first priority.