MARYSVILLE — A group of parents has called for the resignation of leaders in the Marysville School District following multiple death threats made against students of color in two separate incidents in recent months.
According to the targeted families and NAACP Snohomish County, two boys who made the racist threats are still in school.
But in a letter sent Thursday, the district wrote that the “disciplined students” are now in a separate program “outside of school,” where they have no contact with other students during in-person or online class time. It was not clear when that decision was made. The district has said it is not allowed to discuss specifics about student discipline.
Superintendent Jason Thompson is on medical leave. It is not clear when he will return. Acting Superintendent Lori Knudson has taken over his responsibilities. Knudson signed the Thursday letter, acknowledging that “racism and hate continue to exist in our community.”
“When incidents occur, the law prevents us from sharing specific details involving the discipline of students,” the letter reads. “But what we can do is make you aware of how the school district responds when a threat or hate incident occurs.”
Those steps, according to the letter, include notifying the police, conducting a threat assessment, creating a safety plan, assigning discipline according to law, providing services and resources for safety to victims, and providing services and resources for perpetrators.
Hours earlier, on Wednesday evening, activists and parents of the targeted students called for the resignations of Thompson, Knudson and Director of Secondary Schools Rod Merrell. That news release was sent by JJ Frank, who has two children in Marysville schools.
“Only after we tell the truth in the public does this administration team in the Marysville School District send their spin on our pain and suffering from racist death threats,” Frank said Thursday in a written statement to The Daily Herald. “Now they have a policy to remove students who make death threats after four months of sharing our trauma to the district with no response, but lip service.”
The news release said the district has failed people of color by not keeping students safe and not protecting learning environments.
“The Marysville School District has lied to our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community about the student who is connected to two death threats and why he remains in school,” the letter alleges. “The (district) did not notify the Marysville School Board immediately when the second death threat happened that included a picture of a gun.”
The first incident occurred in December, when two boys reportedly talked openly about killing Black classmates while in a small online learning group, according to police reports filed in Snohomish County Juvenile Court.
After consulting with the parents of one of the targeted classmates, the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office opted to refer the two boys to a diversion program rather than to pursue hate crime charges. According to a legal memorandum obtained by The Daily Herald through a public records request, the parents said they felt diversion was an appropriate route, though “they did want to make sure the youth receives some form of counseling or education as to the history of slavery, racism, and the racist epithets in America (as) appropriate in this circumstance.”
In another incident, in late January, a 20-year-old Lake Stevens man posted a picture on a “juvenile’s social media account,” where the young man threatened to “kill minorities,” according to a letter signed by Marysville Police Chief Erik Scairpon, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring and other local officials. An investigation is under way by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit.
A recent Instagram post from NAACP Snohomish County shows a photo of what appears to be a hand holding a gun, with the words, “Killing minorities soon,” printed across the bottom. The photo is faint, covered by a gray filter and bold text. A caption says it’s the image posted to social media in the second incident.
“Hate crimes in schools have serious, even deadly, outcomes,” the caption reads. “Our children are being traumatized, and are disgusted by these happenings, and the fact that the Marysville School District continues to allow this youth to be present amongst his peers shows a blatant lack of care for the safety and well being of Black and Brown students.”
A press conference has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Comeford Park, 514 Delta Ave. It was organized by families who have been targeted, as well as NAACP Snohomish County, the Snohomish County Communities of Color Coalition and the Snohomish County Black Heritage Committee.
Meanwhile, in-person learning for middle and high school students in the Marysville district is set to resume April 14.
The time of Saturday’s press conference has been corrected. It is at 1 p.m.