Playing it safe at Marysville schools

MARYSVILLE – Jason Thompson would like to have a school resource officer at every school in the Marysville district.

The interim superintendent also would like to have more-modern schools that could be built with the most-current safety features.

Because of the high cost, neither of those is likely to happen soon.

So the district continues to develop less-expensive options to keep students safe at school, an effort that took on more prominence after the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck four years ago.

District representatives explained some of those efforts at two public safety meetings the past week.

Thompson said overall, the district wants to “build relationships and rebuild trust.” He wants all students to feel like the district “cares about them.” By getting to know students, he said they are more likely to seek help, with bullying for example. He said there also is an emphasis on cultural differences. “We’re not treating people with respect,” he said, adding that has to change.

The safety director

In his new position, Greg Dennis said the 10 drills the state requires at schools are taking on more meaning. They are no longer go out on the field and take roll. They are more interactive.

“We throw some curve balls at them so they mean something,” he said. Also, along with the five SROs in the high schools there are security officers at all secondary schools. He said there is a phone app available so schools can get a faster response from first responders. Dennis asked for the public’s help regarding lockdowns. He asked that parents not come to campus and try to pick up their child. “We understand why you want to,” he said, but safety measures are in place so parents can’t get their kid anyway.

He did say only parents will be allowed to pick up their student in the event of a major disaster, such as an earthquake. Students will be taken to a Reunification Center, and parents will have to sign them out.

The technology director

Scott Beebe said there are safety features on the Chromebook laptop computers that all students have in grades 6-12.

One filter looks for “terms” students use that could be clues to self harm or drug or alcohol abuse. There are a lot of false readings, and the filter is constantly being revised because students “find new things on the internet before we have them blocked,” he said. Another filter allows teachers to take control of the computer screens in the classroom because sites like Youtube can be a distraction, he added.

The police

Sgt. Rick Sparr repeated a recurring theme, saying the goal of the SROs and security officers is to “get to know them (the students.”

By developing relationships, the officers can counsel and coach students on a variety of issues.

Sparr added that it also helps that the officers attend many after-school activities to bond with kids, too. Another area of safety police focus on regards school buses. “A lot of folks run the stop arm,” he said.

The counselor

Sandra Madrigal said they work with K-12 students on social skills and developing their sense of being – “character education building.” They teach respect for each other, self regulation and have an anti-bullying curriculum.

They try to help students be stable emotionally to keep them from harming themselves or others. There are counselors who focus specifically on mental health. They also work on issues related to alcohol and drugs.

There are screeners who decide if a student needs short- or long-term help. They contact families and help them find professionals who can work on those issues.

Counselors also help students with the more traditional issue of finding a career path. “We try to understand where they are at and guide them,” Madrigal said.

The chaplain

Greg Kanehen talked about his work with two organizations – the Marysville Together Coalition and Crisis Support.

With the coalition, there are wellness classes students can take on things like Life Skills, which teach how to say no to drugs and bullying.

“We work in harmony with the counselors,” he said.

He also mentioned a free eight-hour class the coalition offers for adults the third Friday of each month called, “Mental Health First Aid.”

With Crisis Support, it’s their job to help folks deal with trauma and grief. “We never interfere,” he said. “But we’re there if needed.”

The outreach director

Jodi Runyon, in her new position, said safety is “top of mind” for the district.

She did say if there is an emergency, the district cannot control social media. But if there is a true emergency, “The district will let you know.”


By Steve Powell

MARYSVILLE – Despite all of these new safety programs, bad things still happen.

Such as recently there have been suicides and drug overdoses recently of kids who have gone or are going to Marysville schools.

So, what more can be done?

Chaplain Greg Kanehen said society needs to help make the “family unit stronger.”

He said life is hard and it puts strain or families. But one thing could help – changing the social norm that it’s OK for kids to drink alcohol.

Counselor Sandra Madrigal said people need to talk about their problems.

“Everybody has problems,” she said. “We need to all hear from each other. It needs to be less taboo to say it out loud.”

She added that if people keep their eyes open you might see a troubled kid.

“I’m there for them,” she said.

Outreach director Jodi Runyon said everyone needs to get involved to develop a safety net for kids. “Be a positive influence. Go that extra step and say, ‘Hello.’ Show our youth we care about them.”

Sgt. Rick Sparr said we need to spend more time with outreach, especially with runaways or kids with truancy issues.

Assistant superintendent Scott Beebe said the district is using a softer hand regarding discipline. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports focuses on encouraging rather than consequences. •During a public Question and Answer session, it was asked what else could be done since the district can’t afford 25 student resource officers. It was brought up that Allen Creek Elementary has a WATCHDOG program that allows “positive adult figures” in the school to help with behavior and get to know the kids.

•It was asked why doors are open for help in elementary school, but it stops at middle school. Interim superintendent Jason Thompson said, “Those walls need to come down.” He admitted it’s because it’s not “cool anymore” for students to have their parents involved, but “we need to push that. The same in high school,” when parents are even more out of touch. Runyon interjected with her children, “When they got older they needed me more.”

•Police were asked why they no longer bring drug dogs to school. Sparr said case law in courts say dogs can’t be used on people or backpacks. That method was only effective when schools had lockers. “It’s unfortunate because that detoured a lot of drugs being brought to school,” Thompson said. The woman added that she sent a son back to Mexico in middle school because his problems were being ignored. She said he has returned and things are better in the ninth grade. She also said another child has had issues in middle school, too, but those have been dealt with. Thompson apologized for the previous incident. “Schools deal with a lot of problems, and some can be pushed to the side,” he said. “Don’t give up. Reach out to the district office.”

School resources

•Take the Healthy Communities Survey at

•School visitors sign in and wear badges

•Marysville police and school staff have active shooter training drills not during schools hours.

•The Rave Mobile Safety App allows district employees to activate the Rave Panic Button, which dials 9-1-1 and sends texts to on-site personnel.

•Safe Schools Alert allows anyone to report bullying anonymously.

Substance abuse/Mental health


Hopeline: 1-800-SUICIDE

Suicide prevention: 1-800-273-TALK

Youth crisis: 1-800-448-4663

Crisis textline: Text “help” to 741741

Local resources

Compass Health 425-349-8700

Crisis line: 425-258-4357

Alliance on mental illness: 425-339-3620

Grief services: 425-261-4807

Sexual assault: 3425-789-3000

Center for assault and abuse: 425-297-5771


Domestic violence: 425-252-2873

Information hotline: 211

40 developmental assets

Search Institute has identified 40 positive supports young people need to succeed. Half focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families, schools and communities. The others focus on social-emotional strengths, values and commitments that are nurtured within young people.

There are different assets for different age groups: 3-5, 5-9, 8-12 and 12-18. There are eight common themes:

•External assets: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and expectations, and Constructive use of time.

•Internal assets: Commitment to learning, Positive values, Social competencies and positive identity.

Many of the assets are common at every level: Family support, community values youth, family boundaries, creative activities, achievement motivation, caring, planning and decision making, and personal power.

For the complete list go to:

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