Despite numerous complaints, the school board at Broadview-Thompson Elementary School in Seattle is refusing to do anything about the issue of a homeless encampment that has spilled over onto school property. Several board members are calling the encampment a lesson in compassion for the children, and have refused to allow the city to remove it.
Seattle parent Serena Evans, and many other parents in the district, are worried about the safety of their children. Many of them have mentioned that their children are too scared to go to the school, and others have been playing near the edge of the homeless encampment, stepping on condom wrappers, broken bottles, and trash.
“I knew it had gotten bad, but I didn’t realize how out of control it was,” Evans told local news outlet KIRO7. “To have my daughter running around — not to pass judgment but usually with homeless encampments, there are drugs which mean needles.”
The homeless encampment started in the summer of 2020 during the COVID pandemic, and has grown to more than 50 tents.
“I get it, homelessness is out of control,” Evans said. “But now, it’s crossing the line with our kids.”
Another parent, Ryle Goodrich, who has a 6 year old son who was set to attend school at Broadview-Thompson, is questioning “the judgement of those in charge of keeping your children safe,” and is calling on Seattle’s radical leftist mayor to clean up the homeless encampment.
Unfortunately for these parents, the mayor apparently does not have the authority to sweep the area because the school is on property owned by Seattle Public Schools, not city property. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkin cannot act until the school board specifically requests for the city to step in.
“They are a separate government,” Durkin said. “They are just like the state Department of Transportation or the city of Auburn… They are a governmental entity that owns its own property. They are like other property owners in the city of Seattle in that there’s legal steps that they would have to go through.”
According to Durkin, the city is willing to help, but it cannot overrule the school board’s decision.
School Board Negligence
Rather than doing their job, members of the school board have argued that removing the homeless would set a bad example for students, and are now claiming that allowing them to stay would provide a lesson in compassion for the children. School Board President Chandra Hampson and School Board Director Zachary DeWolf have reportedly demanded that “sweeps never occur.”
“Our students deserve to see the adults behave compassionately and responsibly in the face of a tragically mounting homelessness crisis,” the two board members said in a joint statement. “Sweeps are not a form of compassion nor do they demonstrate responsible adult behavior. In fact, they are decidedly inhumane and irresponsibly set people struggling with homelessness further into the margins.”
Seattle residents are furious at this statement. Tim Gaydos, a former pastor and founder of the Friends of Denny Park, spoke to the Washington Examiner about the board’s decision.
“When they say we will never ever ever remove these encampments because our children deserve to see adults treating people with compassion, that’s where I’m like, we have totally different definitions of compassion,” Gaydos said. “Compassion to me is not putting your kids in the middle of a dangerous place. And at the same time, compassion isn’t just letting (the homeless) stay there and languish. There are rats, trash. They are unbelievable conditions.”
The School Board’s Decision
After pressure from concerned parents, the school board recently released a statement claiming that it is ready to take “immediate steps” to handle the situation. Of course, those steps don’t include an immediate removal of the homeless encampment from school property. Instead, they have decided to lock a chain-link fence, and to use a different entrance.
“Because the encampment residents living near the school move between city and district owned properties, simply removing them from district property won’t result in a permanent solution,” the statement sent to the Washington Examiner read. “We continue to coordinate with the city, building staff, and families to implement long-term solutions that prioritize the well-being of our school community and care for unhoused residents.”