Bailey Thoms wears a red target on the front of her T-shirt. On the back are the words “Are We Next?” Blunt and bold, it’s how the Marysville Getchell High School junior is feeling.
Thoms, 16, and her friends intend to wear the shirts they painted during a march they’ve planned for 9 a.m. Saturday. Starting on the corner of State Avenue and Fourth Street in Marysville, they plan to march north along State if they get a crowd. Spurred by the Florida school shooting that claimed 17 lives, they’re calling for increased gun restrictions and more mental health care.
“Something needs to happen now,” Thoms said. She was in eighth grade at Marysville’s Totem Middle School in 2014 when a Marysville Pilchuck High School freshman shot five students, killing four. The shooter also killed himself. Thoms knew one victim, Zoe Galasso, who had attended Totem.
“Before that happened, I thought that kind of stuff can’t happen here. This is real,” Thoms said.
And then there’s Roger Gable. At 69, he’s a piano tuner whose Everett business rents high-end pianos to concert halls and other venues. He graduated from Snohomish High in the 1960s, when no one imagined a school shooting rampage.
Like Thoms, the owner of Gable Piano was driven to act after the Feb. 14 attack at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School. Gable has taken out ads in The Daily Herald asking the public to contribute to an effort to send Snohomish County high school students to the March 24 “March for Our Lives” in Washington, D.C. That anti-gun violence demonstration was planned just days after the Florida shootings.
Gable, whose business takes him into schools, was shocked when gun laws didn’t change after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
“When Florida happened, I thought to myself ‘This is the last straw,’ ” he said. “For Snohomish County, in light of the Marysville Pilchuck tragedy, maybe we ought to help those kids in Florida.” Students from the Florida school have taken their gun-control message to lawmakers and the national media.
As of Thursday, Gable said little more than $1,200 had been pledged to his cause. He had hoped donations might be enough to send one student from each high school in the county to Washington, D.C. Even if he doesn’t raise another cent, Gable plans to pay for someone to go to the national march. It just may be Thoms.
“She’s first on the list to represent Snohomish County,” Gable said Thursday. He and the Marysville Getchell teen plan to meet at Saturday’s Marysville march.
At school Wednesday, Thoms said she was raised in a household with firearms. But she sees no need for anyone except the military and law enforcement to possess military-style semiautomatic rifles. “And I think 18 is too young — 21 is better,” she said. In Olympia on Tuesday, lawmakers heard testimony for and against Senate Bill 6620, which would boost background check requirements and increase the legal age for buying semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21.
Thoms said the idea for the local march came during a U.S. history class taught by Marjorie Serge, and that the teacher plans to join students Saturday.
Marysville Getchell Principal Richard Zimmerman said Thoms talked with him about the march. “I absolutely support students’ right to free speech,” he said. The school, he said, conducts monthly drills, rotating between fire, earthquake, shelter in place and lockdown practices.
Zimmerman is against the idea of arming teachers, which has been suggested by President Donald Trump. “I support having trained police personnel at school,” he said. “I have worked closely with school resource officers for years. They’re a vital part of our safety plan.”
To put guns in teachers’ hands “is not what they signed up for,” Zimmerman said. “I’d rather have teachers focused on building trust and nurturing relationships.”
Emily Wicks, a Marysville School District spokeswoman, said passage of a technology levy several years ago paid for more security cameras at all district schools. Mental health has also been a high priority.
A federal Project Aware grant, awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is paying for school-based mental health services in the district’s secondary schools, Wicks said. There have also been youth mental health first aid trainings.
“The mental health factor is huge,” said Thoms, who doesn’t want Saturday’s march to be the end of her school-safety efforts. “I want to reach out and have more interaction, maybe start some sort of club. It’s important not to feel alone at school.” Now part of Marysville Getchell’s International School of Communications, Thoms is interested in studying law someday.
Her principal is impressed that after so many gun tragedies, students nationwide have found their powerful voice.
“I think the helplessness feeling isn’t there this time,” Zimmerman said. “It’s almost a feeling of enough — we’re going to take control of it.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to school shootings, Marysville Getchell High School junior Bailey Thoms has organized a march starting at 9 a.m. Saturday on the corner of State Avenue and Fourth Street in Marysville. Her effort calls for new gun restrictions and more mental health care in schools. Everyone is welcome.
Everett businessman Roger Gable is raising money to send Snohomish County high school students to the March for Our Lives event on March 24 in Washington, D.C. Information: 425-259-0741. To pledge a donation, send email with your name to: email@example.com