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Family accuses Marysville School District of not doing enough after threats against Black students

Police investigated two students last December for using racial slurs and threatening to kill students of color. The students were moved to a diversion program.

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Allegations of systemic racism and a lack of leadership in the Marysville School District brought a large crowd out to a Marysville park on Saturday. 

Police in Marysville investigated two students last December for using racial slurs and threatening to kill students of color, even mentioning some classmates by name.

Some families said they believe the district hasn't done enough in response.

“My family’s lives were threatened not once but twice,” JJ Frank told the crowd on Saturday. 

The Frank family said they've been dealing with intense pain since they heard about the threats made against their daughter. “They said that they wanted to kill my daughter, my 15-year-old daughter,” Frank said.

For months, the family said they've tried to work with the district, but their efforts have been stonewalled. They also said the district never offered their daughter any counseling services and the current administrations has been unwilling to work with them at addressing some of the long-standing issues. 

The Franks said they were frustrated the two students involved in the threats weren't charged with a hate crime, despite a recommendation from the Marysville Police Department. Instead, the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office put the students in a diversion program and they were moved to another school in the district, according to the Frank family.

“They weren’t brought back into our children’s school, but somewhere else in the district. We were not notified,” Patrice Frank said.

While the city has no jurisdiction over the school district, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said he's met with the district and attended community meetings in an attempt to move the proceedings forward. The mayor wasn't willing to call for district leaders to resign but said he supports the family.

"Standing with the victim's families, wrapping our arms around them and taking seriously the pain they're going through, that hasn't happened here. And then accountability for the individuals who caused it," Nehring said. 

KING 5 contacted the Marysville School District on Friday for a comment but so far has not received a response.

However, the district released a letter from acting superintendent, Lori Knudson, to families on Thursday saying in part they recognized and acknowledged "racism and hate continue to exist in our community." 

Knudson went on and said student safety is the district's top priority, and the district is limited in what it can say about incidents involving the discipline of students by law. 

Knudson outlined the district's protocol for when a hate incident occurs, which includes notifying the police, conducting a threat assessment, and creating a safety plan, among other steps. She also wrote the district has a program outside of school where disciplined students have no contact with other students.  

Scroll down to read the letter in full.

Dear Students, Families, Staff, and Community Members, 

The Marysville School District and our schools are excited to welcome more students in grades 6 - 12 back to school for in-person learning beginning April 14.

In recent days, information about incidents against students of color, specifically Black/African American students, was shared publicly in the news, on social media, and through community forums. These incidents included online threats made against Black/African American students and confirms the Marysville School District’s recognition and acknowledgment that racism and hate continue to exist in our community. They have further required us to recognize and take responsibility for our own learning related to racism and hate, and commit to strengthening our practices, communication, and training. 

The safety of each student is a top priority. This includes physical, social, and emotional safety. We will strive to do everything in our power to make certain that each student we serve feels safe physically, socially, emotionally, and free from racial or any other forms of discrimination. We are working with student and school leaders to ensure welcoming and safe environments for secondary students when they return for in-person instruction on April 14.

When incidents occur, the law prevents us from sharing specific details involving the discipline of students, but what we can do is make you aware of how the school district responds when a threat or hate incident occurs. We:

· Notify the police 

· Conduct a threat assessment

· Create a safety plan

· Assign discipline according to the law 

· Provide services and resources for safety to victims

· Provide services and resources for perpetrators according to the law (WAC 392-400-610)

In addition, we commit to listening to, and partnering with, our students and communities of color in order to ensure emotional and safety supports are provided in a timely, culturally responsive, and effective manner.

With the work and commitment of the district and school leaders and staff, these changes are beginning to occur. Recent events around racial discrimination and hate have raised concern with parents and guardians and the community, we understand the concern regarding the safety of students. In regard to the recent incidents, to meet both the safety and the educational needs of the students we serve, the district has a process in place to meet the educational requirements of the disciplined students through a program outside of school which includes no contact with other students virtually or in person during instructional time.

I recognize that, by themselves, these acknowledgments and actions are small gestures. They become meaningful when coupled with authentic relationships and informed actions. We honor our partnership with our students, families, and community and strive to raise public awareness around the steps we will continue to take action to address and prevent racial discrimination and hate in our schools.

Sincerely,

Lori Knudson

Acting Superintendent