MARYSVILLE — Dozens of students, parents and teachers in the Marysville School District spoke out against racism Wednesday in response to the district’s handling of death threats against minority students.
Protesters outside district offices waved hand-painted signs with messages including, “Enough is Enough” and “It’s not a joke.”
About 85% of members of the teachers union who voted expressed “no confidence” in the Board of Directors, Marysville Education Association President Becky Roberts said at a school district meeting later that evening. The vote happened a few weeks earlier, she said.
On Wednesday the school board passed a resolution condemning racism.
Back in December, two students reportedly talked during an online class about killing specific Black students. Neither was criminally charged, and the district has said it cannot share specific details about student discipline.
About a month later, a 20-year-old Lake Stevens man used one of those students’ phones to post a threatening message and a photo of a gun on Snapchat, according to court records obtained by The Daily Herald through a public records request.
Investigators determined the gun in the photo was actually a realistic-looking BB gun. The man and others who knew him described the threat as a “joke” to detectives. The case has been forwarded to the Snohomish County prosecutor, with the recommendation that the man be charged with a hate crime.
At the meeting Wednesday, Kristen Michal said she felt the district failed in its response. Two of her children attend Marysville schools.
“It took 3½ months, plus another death threat, before the district acted,” she said.
“The first incident was blatant, it was clearly racist, it was specific — that should be enough,” she added. “In a district that has already had a mass shooting, it should be more than enough.”
Roberts, the union leader, said the group has many concerns with the district and the direction it has been headed, as well as how the school board operates overall.
“These concerns include the board’s inability to make a decision on boundaries,” Roberts said, “which has perpetuated the racial and economic inequalities across our community and in our schools, and has literally used millions of dollars that could have been spent in supporting students in more responsible and equitable ways.”
Marysville Getchell High School opened in 2010 with small learning communities. Since then, students have chosen what school they attend, even though the district dropped smaller learning communities a few years ago.
In that time the district has talked about introducing neighborhood boundaries to determine where students would attend high school, but no plan has been put in place.
The union also feels the board has not been transparent with decision-making and that it has been unable to “secure and then retain a superintendent,” Roberts said.
Superintendent Jason Thompson has been on medical leave since March. Deputy Superintendent Lori Knudson has taken on his responsibilities.
Roberts ended by inviting the board to meet with the education association.
JJ Frank has two children who attend Marysville schools. He has said publicly they have been targeted by racist threats.
He has been involved with the district for decades, advocating for students to graduate and attend college. The past three years have been the most painful and traumatic for his family when it comes to racism, he said.
“Time after time this particular administration has failed our students,” he said. “I’ve had to fight for over three years just for the district to acknowledge that racism even exists in the school district and on our campuses, which we know interferes with learning.”
He asked the board to “turn the chapter on this administration.”
Later in the meeting, Board President Vanessa Edwards read aloud the new resolution.
In it, the board promised to develop a policy addressing racism and hate, to establish a district committee to address racial equity issues, to develop a plan to break down systemic racism and to put all employees through cultural competency training in the next two years.
“These are just words,” Edwards said. “They are no good without action.”
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.
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