Sequim School District leaders have agreed to prioritize installing new security cameras tentatively starting in December, they said during a Sept. 14 meeting regarding school safety.
Superintendent Regan Nickels addressed issues surrounding the Sept. 4 discovery of threatening messages and images spray painted on Helen Haller Elementary and Sequim Middle School with more than 70 community members in the Sequim High School library.
The graffiti included “be ready” next to a swastika, and “Sandy hook 2,” referencing the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Nickels said installation of security cameras have been moved from Tier 3 to Tier 1 in the district’s capital projects levy that voters approved in February 2021.
First, she said, district staff must do an assessment before staff make a request for proposal (RFP) and decide on a contractor. Installation could start sometime in December. She said the they must assess hook-ups and locations, as some of the wiring is more than 30 years old.
Quotes for camera installations were considered, Nickels said, but weren’t completed due to “no continuity in (previous district superintendent) leadership.”
A district-led safety committee is also currently reevaluating the district’s safety procedures for a tentative proposal in mid-October, she said.
Nickels said rumors circulated that an elevator installation in the administration building was prioritized but it’s funded by COVID-19 emergency funds through the federal government, and not the capital levy. She added that levy projects can’t be changed, but can change in priority.
The graffiti is “likely a student-based issue,” Nickels said.
While it’s unknown who painted the Sept. 4 threats, other vandalism and graffiti from over the summer were revealed to be made by middle school students, she added.
Det. Sgt. Darrell Nelson with Sequim Police Department said cameras on and near the vicinity didn’t catch anyone specifically from Sept. 4. Officers went door to door inquiring about any possible footage, he said.
(Law enforcement officials encouraged community members to provide any pertinent information; anonymous information can also be submitted through the superintendent’s office at 360-582-3260 or Sequim Police Department at 360-683-7227 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Police leaders did not comment on the number of individuals potentially involved.
When discovered, police and school officials treated the graffiti as a high risk situation with as many as 12 law enforcement officers on school campuses on Sept. 7, the first day of school.
Nickels asked staffers to lock all outside doors, too.
The graffiti was later deemed low-risk due to a threat analysis tool, police said.
Both police and school officials said they have little fear the graffiti was a threat and more an act of vandalism.
Nickels said the safety committee is considering revised steps in preparation for students in emergencies, such as an active shooter.
School officials haven’t formally told children about the incident, she said, and instead focused on getting back into the school routine.
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said the forum is “an opportunity to figure out where to go next” with safety.
She said police and school officials look to build off what they learned from an active short drill a few years ago.
Nickels said they believe they can put an end to the graffiti and hate crime issue and they need to “put our arms around these kids as a community.
“We need to give them something meaningful to do, to care about, to aspire to so they care about their community and the consequences of their actions and who it affects.”
Dozens of questions and topics were discussed at the safety forum, such as what actions are taken to address anti-minority rhetoric.
Nickels said they use the “Character Strong” curriculum, encourage being respectful of differences, and being kind.
“I’m proud of us as a community,” she said. “I will work to earn back trust. “
In a Sept. 16 email to families, Nickels wrote, “The hard work of school safety preparation, facilitation and response will continue in Sequim School District. I continue to be impressed and heartened by our community’s children that I personally greet and meet each day. Relationships are the foundation of the safest and most inspired organizations; every child deserves their school experience to be built upon a sense of belonging, respect, and connection. As evidenced at the Safety Forum, we have the community dedication and school board support for a comprehensive and successful approach to all things safety.”
A follow-up meeting is planned with a date to be determined.
Those with concerns or questions are encouraged to call Sequim School District at 360-582-3260 or email Nickels at email@example.com.