Police probe racial threats made to Marysville classmates

The Snohomish County chapter of the NAACP urges the incident be investigated as a hate crime.

MARYSVILLE — Families and classmates are speaking out against racist threats made against minority students who attend Marysville schools.

In one case a white student is accused of making death threats while in an online class, where he reportedly said to another student: “Let’s kill all Black people.”

He and another boy allegedly made the initial death threats in December. They named some of their peers as targets, according to a police report filed in Snohomish County Juvenile Court and obtained by The Daily Herald through a public records request.

The Snohomish County Chapter of the NAACP has urged authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

In a separate incident in late January, a man who is related to a Marysville police officer made similar threats online. That case was forwarded to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to avoid a conflict of interest, Marysville Police Chief Erik Scairpon said Monday.

That case is still under investigation by the sheriff’s office Major Crimes Unit, spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe said.

So far no one has been charged with a crime in either case.

In the first incident, the two boys on Dec. 14 were reportedly in a breakout group in a leadership class when they made the threats. Leadership classes often include students in campus government. The teacher asked the group a question in the online video meeting, then left to check on other students, records show.

Once the teacher left, the boys allegedly named a few of their classmates as potential targets, one of whom was in the same online meeting at the time, according to the police report.

After naming those students, one of the boys began to repeat a racial slur, the report says. Both are high school juniors and were 16 at the time.

Eventually another student alerted the teacher, the teacher later told police. The two boys reportedly continued to make racist comments through a social media app called Snapchat, the police report says.

In a written statement, one of the victims said she was “shocked,” especially because this happened in her favorite class, leadership, where “she is supposed to be the safest.”

Later, on Jan. 28, a 20-year-old Lake Stevens man reportedly posted a comment on Instagram that threatened to “kill minorities,” Scairpon said.

“We took immediate action for what it was, a hate crime,” Scairpon said.

He and other city, school district and tribal leaders signed onto a February letter outlining both cases. It says the message was “reportedly posted on a juvenile’s social media account by a young adult male.”

When the department realized the man who made the threats was related to a Marysville officer, the department forwarded the case to be investigated by the sheriff’s office. That investigation is expected to be finished by early April, according to the sheriff’s office.

Scairpon started with the Marysville department in September. He said he hopes to join more conversations on inequity.

He attended a forum Thursday evening hosted by the Communities of Color Coalition, a nonprofit based in Snohomish County.

“We have to have these conversations now and find ways to create healing in our community, ” he said. “I know that healing starts with acknowledgement, and that’s why these community meetings are so valuable.”

Students, parents and local leaders were invited to attend the meeting Thursday.

One girl shared her experience in Marysville schools. She called into the online video meeting from a volleyball game.

“Our problems are constantly swept under the rug,” she said. “Our schools like to say we are diverse, but when us minorities have issues they are never fixed. We constantly have to be the bigger person in many situations.

“For example, if in class I say my opinion on racism or social inequality I am constantly talked down on by my white peers, and I can not act out or talk back or else I am considered rude by my teachers.”

Others who spoke during the meeting included parents whose children were targeted. One father said racism has been dismissed in the school district for years.

“Because we didn’t hold students accountable, they came back and even got more racist. And now it’s escalated to death threats and we are still not holding them accountable,” he said. “… What we want is, we want our children to go to school and get a public education without their lives being threatened. Just like what you got for your children, we want the same thing.”

On Monday, the Snohomish County chapter of the NAACP sent out a letter denouncing the school district’s response to the allegations.

“The students who made the threats received minimal consequences for their actions: a short suspension and a move to a different high school in the district,” the letter reads.

The district cannot comment on specific disciplinary action of students, and an investigation is ongoing, spokesperson Jodi Runyon said in an email Monday.

“We want our students and families to know that we hear them, we are listening, and we care,” Runyon wrote. “We acknowledge racial discrimination is present in our schools and community and will continue to listen and work with our community leaders, students, and families to effect change.”

After the Thursday night meeting, Deputy Superintendent Lori Knudson shared a statement with those in attendance, and made commitments to bring about change.

Some of those plans include to teach staff about white supremacy culture and to work to understand, confront and eliminate systemic racism; to improve learning environments and outcomes for historically underserved students; and to provide trauma-informed, culturally sensitive mental health and other resources for students and families.

In its letter, the NAACP called for the district to protect students of color and for the case to be pursued as a hate crime.

“The students are watching, and your inaction is sending a message that their safety and well-being are not a priority,” the letter reads. “Is this really the message you want the students, our future, to hear?”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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