Post navigation

Prev: (07/20/20) | Next: (07/20/20)

Seattle school board members address ‘excessive force’ incident at Capitol Hill elementary school

Stevens Elementary School parents, teachers and district board directors gathered over Zoom last week in light of an incident during the just completed school year that raised concerns about racial bias and force used to restrain students. Some school board directors are looking into policy prohibiting physical restraint methods altogether.

“Director Rankin and I are exploring, along with staff, what are the impacts and what is the possibility of an outright ban on isolation and restraints especially in our district and focusing solely on de-escalation methods,” school board member Brandon Hersey said over Zoom. “That way we remove the ability for harm to be done to our students physically yet we still have an opportunity to reevaluate and recenter ourselves in de-escalation.”

The district’s physical intervention policy allows restraint and isolation methods to be used on students “when reasonably necessary to control spontaneous behavior that poses an ‘imminent likelihood of serious harm,’ as defined by WAC 392-172A- 01092 and WAC 392-172A-01109,” to oneself, peers or property.

Concerns about this policy heightened following a March incident in which district security guard David Raybern allegedly held down a seven-year-old Black student to the point of restricting her breathing, according to a report by KUOW. Raybern has since been terminated from his position, according to Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Tim Robinson.

Director Zachary DeWolf, who represents Stevens as part of District 5, said the board is working to unveil a series of a dozen or so safety and security policy changes for the fall that are in line with the board’s recent “Commitment to Black students” resolution.

“One thing I’m concerned about is the place where people can use their own personal biases to gage somebody’s imminent risk to themselves and then make a decision based on that,” DeWolf said.

Meeting attendees expressed confusion and frustration over the March incident not being publicly acknowledged until three months after-the-fact, when Superintendent Denise Juneau sent out an email to the Stevens community. Juneau refers to multiple alleged “inappropriate” incidents at Stevens, including Raybern using “excessive force” on the seven-year-old student.

“That’s where we really fall down as a district, is we skip over that acknowledgement piece entirely and it really leaves anyone and everyone involved feeling pretty, pretty awful so that’s something that we would like to see codified,” director Chandra Hampson said.

The discussions come on the heels of school districts across the country cutting ties with police after widespread protesting against racism and police brutality. Seattle Public Schools has followed suit, suspending police presence in school buildings as of June. Security guards, on the other hand, remain the center of debate.“This is insane that we are having conversations about a security guard that threw a seven year old against a wall,” Hersey said. “This should be a no-brainer for our system to show that we need to take action and it’s far too late.”


BECOME A 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.


Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

9 thoughts on “Seattle school board members address ‘excessive force’ incident at Capitol Hill elementary school

  1. I’m surprised the District even responded. The problem with this restraint policy isn’t just that it can be referred to in order to justify almost anything, but that it even exists. This isn’t just physical harm to children, this harms their hearts, their mental health, and their families. Physical restraint methods are too easy to employ against little kids, and in some cases (like ours) the parents are not told and the kids don’t tell because they worry about getting into more trouble. We found out because we saw bruises, and another parent was kind enough and brave enough to tell us what she witnessed. We went through the district’s required complaint policy and never even got a response from the Superninendent’s office, unless you count an aut-response email saying they will respond within 3 days. If Denise Juneau refuses to take responsibility for the harm this policy does to kids, schools and communities, then the policy itself shouldn’t exist. Or she needs to go. I lean toward the latter. If it weren’t for Ann Dornfeld’s reporting, this kind of shit would continue in the dark forever.

  2. So yelling at a kid to go to the principals office, or throwing chalk at them is ineffective on kids these days? Security guards are needed now? What happened?

  3. Whoa. This is an elementary school. Why does it have security guards and a restraint policy at all?

    Not saying that’s appropriate in a high school either. Just that it is also bizarre in the context of an elementary school. Why on earth would we be physically restraining a 7 year old kid?

  4. I agree this sounds like it was excessive force to be used on a 7 year old.

    But I have witnessed physical altercations on the Stevens playground between 5th graders (10-11yrs old) where some level of physical interaction was required to keep the kids apart and to stop them from punching/kicking each other. How will the district handle these incidents?

  5. My daughter was stabbed in the arm by another child at Stevens. The child who stabber her was known to have issues, and was not supposed to have scissors.
    The response after I emailed the school twice about it?
    They had her swapped seating assignments with a different child.
    Another story?
    One of the board members of the PTA organized meetings to get rid of one of the teachers, they offered to use PTA funding to hire a different teacher in her spot ( they held meetings in private homes and the library while organizing around this ).
    What else would someone expect from a PTA that has meetings where they never get to the point of talking about day to day issues facing the school ( pencils, paper, and crayons ).
    Is there more…?
    I have at least one email in my inbox describes the daily situation there being children fighting in the halls with teachers, etc… this was a cry for help from a teacher.

    I know several parents who started with their children in public school, but then decided to put their children in private school after being at Stevens for a year or two.

    The new principle? The tragedy mentioned in the above article happened since her took over.
    There is zero reason to believe anything will change.

    Having sat through a couple of board meetings early in the last school year that Zachary DeWolf was leading?
    He pays zero attention to parents, and appears to be using his board seat as a stepping stone into higher political office. The board meeting where he cut off parents and didn’t use his power of “call to order” to quiet the board meeting after one of his colleagues told some Black parents that they had all been tokenized? ( TheStranger reported on this, the board member was literally telling Black parents that their thoughts did not matter ).

    Denise Juneau response the pandemic was uninformed and showed zero leadership. Her responses showed she had no idea how the schools operate on a day to day basic ( she wasn’t even aware that Parents/students had an online portal ).

    Where all of the money went for laptops for children has been swept under the rug.

    FWIW the teacher who moved my child is probably one of the best teachers at Stevens; she is just working with what she has.

  6. My daughter was stabbed in the arm by another child at Stevens. The child who stabber her was known to have issues, and was not supposed to have scissors.
    The response after I emailed the school twice about it?
    They had her swapped seating assignments with a different child.
    Another story?
    One of the board members of the PTA organized meetings to get rid of one of the teachers, they offered to use PTA funding to hire a different teacher in her spot ( they held meetings in private homes and the library while organizing around this ).
    What else would someone expect from a PTA that has meetings where they never get to the point of talking about day to day issues facing the school ( pencils, paper, and crayons ).
    Is there more…?
    I have at least one email in my inbox describes the daily situation there being children fighting in the halls with teachers, etc… this was a cry for help from a teacher.

    I know several parents who started with their children in public school, but then decided to put their children in private school after being at Stevens for a year or two.

    The new principle? The tragedy mentioned in the above article happened since her took over.
    There is zero reason to believe anything will change.

    Having sat through a couple of board meetings early in the last school year that Zachary DeWolf was leading?
    He pays zero attention to parents, and appears to be using his board seat as a stepping stone into higher political office. The board meeting where he cut off parents and didn’t use his power of “call to order” to quiet the board meeting after one of his colleagues told some Black parents that they had all been tokenized? ( TheStranger reported on this, the board member was literally telling Black parents that their thoughts did not matter ).

    Denise Juneau response the pandemic was uninformed and showed zero leadership. Her responses showed she had no idea how the schools operate on a day to day basic ( she wasn’t even aware that Parents/students had an online portal ).

    Where all of the money went for laptops for children has been swept under the rug.

    FWIW the teacher who moved my child is probably one of the best teachers at Stevens; she is just working with what she has.

  7. Gawd, Stevens is a mess. My 10yo started begging me for home schooling last year, advocating that he would learn more at home than he was at school.

    Then quarantine hit, and I watched him prove himself right! I have never EVER been someone who considered homeschooling, but after 5 years at Stevens… Homeschooling has started feeling like a more viable option. (We keep trying for other schools and getting waitlisted.)

    Of course I can’t really blame Stevens, or even SPS. The US just doesn’t value education, and the problems go all the way to the top.

  8. Interesting that the meeting had board directors but apparently, no one in district leadership. That speaks volumes.

    As well there is this from the story:
    “One thing I’m concerned about is the place where people can use their own personal biases to gage somebody’s imminent risk to themselves and then make a decision based on that,” DeWolf said.”

    I’m not sure what that word salad means but he seems to be saying that the guard thought the girl was a risk because she was Black? The guard was absolutely wrong but I suspect that he would done that to any kid (given his lack of imagination about what else he could do to calm an upset child).

    But with buildings not reopening, this kind of issue is probably going to lose focus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.