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Area schools respond, adapt to Freeman tragedy

Therapy dogs were on hand to help Freeman students, staff and faculty, as classes resumed Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, after a shooting last week left one student dead and three injured. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Therapy dogs were on hand to help Freeman students, staff and faculty, as classes resumed Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, after a shooting last week left one student dead and three injured. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Across the Spokane-region students are meeting with school staff, trying to process last week’s school shooting.

“For Riverside, as a community, it’s been especially difficult because Freeman reminds us of Riverside,” said Ken Russell, the superintendent of Riverside, a small rural district north of Spokane.

Ken Russell’s brother is Randy Russell, the Freeman superintendent.

“That has been just really difficult on a personal level,” Russell said.

On Wednesday, Riverside students, staff, parents and community members will meet at 6:30 p.m. for a community discussion, Russell said. There will be a vigil afterward.

“They are really grieving and mourning for Freeman,” Russell said of Riverside students. “They too, like all of us, wonder what implications that has for our own schools.”

Riverside students also made banners for Freeman.

At Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, students met in a convocation on Friday, said Principal Marybeth Smith.

“You know what, we are as safe as everyone here chooses to help us be,” she said she told the students.

She encouraged students to offer support to friends or acquaintances who may be suffering. Lewis and Clark students also made signs that were taken to the Friday Freeman football game.

At North Central High School, Principal Steve Fisk reiterated to students the importance of reporting suspicious incidents or statements.

Rogers High School Principal Lori Wyborney said the shooting has been a reminder.

“It does raise some awareness for students for them to be kinder,” she said.

Shooting prompted lockdown

As news spread of the Freeman High School shooting last Wednesday, the state’s second-largest school district went into a full lockdown.

“That was the first time we’ve ever had a districtwide lockdown ever. Period,” said Spokane Public Schools Spokesman Kevin Morrison.

Mark Sterk, the district’s director of safety and the former Spokane County sheriff, said initially he ordered only the South Hill schools locked down. Superintendent Shelley Redinger then made the call to have all schools locked down.

“We just didn’t know what we didn’t know yet,” Sterk said. “But we wanted to err on the side of safety.”

At the same time, Sterk said he embedded a campus resource officer at police dispatch to get up-to-date information.

The lockdown lasted for roughly 40 minutes, Sterk said. Overall he said crisis systems and process worked. However, there are a few things Sterk said he’d like to change.

“We need to be better prepared for extended lockdowns in our classrooms,” he said.

That could include snacks, small camping-style portable bathrooms and activities. Additionally, Sterk said he’d like to formalize an agreement with Spokane police that if there is an incident, a school resource officer immediately goes to police dispatch.

Finally, Sterk said he’d like to work on communication. Last week Sterk disseminated information to district administrators who passed that information along to teachers and principals.

In the future, Sterk said, he’d like to see a system where teachers could be notified directly, whether by email, phone or text.

Central Valley School District was also locked down following the shooting.

This week the district is contracting with a private security company for a limited time. The security offices will focus on “exterior doors and portable entries” according to an email sent to parents.

The added presence is to “ensure that everything is safe and secure,” said spokeswoman Marla Nunberg. Nunberg said the increased security is “just a precaution.”


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