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Teachers' union finally waking up to north Seattle homeless problem

Broadview Thomson K-8 teacher letter PIXLR.jpg
Teachers at a north Seattle K-8 school are finally pushing back on the district to remove an unsanctioned homeless camp on school property that borders a city park in the Bitter Lake neighborhood. (photo: KOMO News)

Teachers at a north Seattle school are finally voicing their concerns about an illegal/unsanctioned homeless camp trespassing on school property at Broadview Thomson K-8 in the Bitter Lake neighborhood.

Natalee Powell, a second-grade teacher (pictured above) at Broadview Thomson K-8 and the Seattle Education Association's representative for the school issued the letter to the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Brent Jones, complaining about public safety concerns by parents and staff at the school.

Last week at Broadview Thomson K-8, an intruder entered the school building through a door left a jar, startling a teacher in a class room who was conducting an on-line class with students. The intruder didn't harm anyone inside the school building and ultimately fled, according to staff. Although security cameras recorded footage of the assailant, no one has been identified for breaching the school building, which resulted in a lockdown of the campus. There has been no indication by authorities that the intruder was connected to the homeless tents straddling the school property and the adjoining Bitter Lake Park. It was reported to be a male intruder.

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Concerns about student safety and illegal activity in the Bitter Lake Camp are being brought to Broadview-Thomson admin and staff on an almost daily basis. Staff and families have expressed not feeling safe at Broadview-Thomson. -- Broadview Thomson K-8 teachers to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent

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The timing of the teachers' union letter this week and the break-in last week raise a critical question: are school teachers willing to ignore the homeless problem at the Broadview Thomson property line until it might actually imperil their interests while ostensibly staying silent as parents have complained about the potential security problems and safety concerns for more than 10 months.

That's just one of the credibility problems for the Seattle Education Association.

The second problem is that, according to KOMO News, parents of Broadview Thomson K-8 students are pulling their kids out of the school and making other instructional arrangements--including homeschooling. Reading between the lines of this angle, it appears that the teachers' union letter arrives as the school's student enrollment may be shrinking and fewer students means less money for the school. It also could mean fewer teachers employed at the school. Fewer teachers at the school would likely mean fewer union members paying dues to the Seattle Education Association.

Why did the teachers' union wait so long to speak out about the potential or actual security concerns connected to the illegal/unsanctioned/trespassing homeless camp on school property at Broadview Thomson? Did the teachers' union avoid taking a position on the status of homeless people living in tents on school property next to the school playground because their political views generally mirror those of the majority of the Seattle City Council that have also failed to pay heed to homeless people squatting on school property in the past?

The Seattle Education Association is very powerful politically in Seattle. They've struck twice (2015 and 2018) in the last few years. The SEA delayed the resumption of in-class learning after vaccines were administered following the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. Had Gov. Jay Inslee not required a return to some form of in-class learning after several major school unions--including the SEA--resisted the return to in-class learning, its possible that Seattle schools would still be all remote.

The teachers' union has political juice but they don't seem to care about the parents and the students they're paid to grace with an education when they wait until larger emergencies impact their daily life before speaking out against what is an obvious wrong: ignoring the reality of an unsanctioned homeless camp on or near school property. .

Add to this a legal effort now starting by Broadview Thomson K-8 parents to sue the Seattle School District for failing to enforce its own policies regarding the homeless people illegally camping on school property.

It's sad that teachers didn’t take the ethical road before now, only speaking out after it jeopardizes their employment numbers. But, hey, that’s union politics.

Hopefully the teachers' union--and the teachers at Broadview Thomson specifically--are smart enough to understand that ANY homeless camp has no business being in such close proximity to a school whether or not its technically on school property or divided by a chain link fence as is the case at Broadview Thomson.

Teachers should demand more. Parents certainly do already.

Seattle teachers can bolster their very sizeable credibility gap with parents by joining their Broadview Thomson K-8 colleagues and demanding that there's no excuse for allowing unsanctioned homeless camps anywhere near school grounds.

Phil Vandervort is the Talk Radio 570 KVI morning show producer (6a-9:06a) and also the parent of a Seattle Public School student. He speaks for nobody but himself.

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