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"Parents, school district seek answers to school safety"
"By LIZ ABERG Staff writer As police continued to search for the suspect in Monday's shooting injury of a Thomas Jefferson High School student this week, concerned parents and residents crowded into another school's gym for a forum on student safety.Before forum attendees - about 300 of them - Federal Way Public Schools officials reviewed steps they are taking to understand the cause of Monday's incident and prevent similar problems in the future. District officials also called on parents and community members to join them in finding solutions to youth violence in Federal Way, asking them to fill out a form indicating interest in the issue and spend time in schools in the future. The Thursday forum was held at Decatur High School.Following Monday's incident, district officials suspended or emergency expelled six students from Federal Way High School and four students from Jefferson. They've also beefed up school security at the two schools, and are meeting with small groups of students in an attempt to understand what led up to the incident, in which a 16-year-old Jefferson student was shot in the ankle about two blocks from Federal Way High School. The student was treated at Harborview Medical Center, and released on Thursday.Police said the shooting arose from an ongoing conflict between two groups after the driver of a white Ford Mustang deliberately rear-ended a Cadillac El Dorado. When the driver of the rear-ended car got out, someone in the Mustang pulled a silver revolver and fired four shots, wounding the Jefferson student.About 30 to 50 youth converged on the scene of the shooting - many of them Federal Way and Jefferson students - and were fighting before enough police officers arrived to break up the scuffle. According to student and witness accounts, trouble had been brewing for about three weeks among a group of students, which had decided to fight on Monday after a weekend dispute at a playground. Students at the schools say race was a factor in the dispute, but police and school officials say they're cautious about pointing to any cause until police have finished their investigation. However, school officials did meet with leaders in the black and Korean communities this week.Both Federal Way and Jefferson were closed Tuesday, and reopened Wednesday without incident.A rumor about the shooting circulated at Totem Junior High School Wednesday, prompting the school's principal to remove four students from school for the day. Kent police were called to investigate rumors of a possible shooting of a relative of the 16-year-old Jefferson boy who was shot, but the rumor proved to be false.Police are still searching for the suspect in Monday's shooting, whom they believe is school-age but not a student in the Federal Way school district, and are asking the community for help in finding the white Mustang involved in Monday's incident. Police also think other non-students were involved in the events leading up to the shooting. Police spokesman Brett Hatfield said investigators are following several promising leads, but no arrests have been made.School district officials are taking action as well. At the forum, Superintendent Tom Murphy said administrators from Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson high schools identified student leaders - both formal and informal - then met with the students in small groups last week to collect more information on the shooting and its causes. Murphy said the student meetings will continue throughout the year at the schools and at the school district headquarters. In the future, similar meetings could be set up at other schools, he said.He also invited parents to come anytime, come often and stay as long as you want, to their children's schools. Such adult presence, he said, would let our kids know adults care. Moreover, parental presence at school would also serve as a crime deterrent.Additionally, Murphy said police officers stationed at each of the three high schools will continue to provide support and protection to students during the day. District employed security guards who also patrol schools provided backup to officers on Monday and will continue to do so, he said. Those actions appear to be working and the district will continue them throughout the year, Murphy said.School district officials also have asked TV crews who were on scene during Monday's fight before and after the shooting for copies of their videotapes in an effort to identify more students who were involved.While the forum calmed some parents' fears, others wanted to know what the school district will do about the expelled students roaming around, possibly looking to create more trouble. Murphy said once students are expelled they are no longer allowed back on any school campus. Students do have access the district's Internet Academy - an on-line school where they could finish their diplomas. Murphy appealed to the community for help in keeping expelled youth off the streets. Rehabilitation is not a district responsibility, Murphy said. That's an area for the community to explore. Parent Edward Wilson drew applause when he said parents should be held accountable for students who act out and misbehave.If parents know their kids carry weapons, Wilson said. Get them and their parents out of the district.Wilson, whose son attends Jefferson, said he was upset by the shooting Monday but said he was pleased that officials were quick to respond to parents with Thursday's meeting.I thought this was very timely, he said. It was a good call on their part to get us this information. I think it helped. "