School Climate & Safety

Seattle-Area School Shooting Not First to Affect a Tribal Community

By Evie Blad — October 27, 2014 2 min read
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Members of the Tulalip Tribes played drums and sang songs at a meeting in a Marysville, Wash., gymnasium Sunday, where community members met to grieve students killed or wounded in a school shooting.

The shooter, identified by witnesses as a popular freshman named Jaylen Fryberg, was from a family that was active in the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, which is served by the Marysville school district, the Associated Press reported. Fryberg killed fellow student Zoe R. Galasso, at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Friday and wounded four others before turning the gun on himself, authorities say. One of the wounded students, identified as Gia Soriano, has since died. The others—Nate Hatch, Andrew Fryberg, and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit— remain in critical or serious condition.

The victims were all sitting at a cafeteria table together after the shooter had sent them a text message inviting them to lunch, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Although Fryberg and all of the victims were Native American, most don’t believe his background was a motive for the attack, according to a Seattle Times article, which said Fryberg “lived with a foot in each of two worlds.”

The shooting, in a town about 30 miles north of Seattle, is not the first to affect a tribal community.

In 2005, a 16-year-old student killed five fellow students, a teacher, and a security guard at a 300-student high school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota in what was then the largest school shooting event since the 1999 attack on Columbine High School in Colorado.

Over the weekend, cable news commentators made much about how Fryberg didn’t fit the school shooter stereotype of a disturbed, isolated, unpopular, white boy. School safety experts quickly warned that those stereotypes are often incorrect. It’s more important for schools to focus on risk assessment, they said, because student attackers almost always discuss their plans in advance. Rather than focusing on one profile of school shooters, those concerned about school safety should find ways to support all students and provide ways for children to report peer behavior that concerns them, they said.

And, just like school shooters come from a variety of backgrounds, healing in the aftermath of these events takes a variety of forms, depending on the community, school leaders who’ve dealt with violence have said.

The National Indian Education Association released a statement about the shooting that said, in part:

NIEA is firm in our resolve to support parents, teachers, and educators who are steadfast in their service to our diverse students, tribes, and communities. In the spirit of our Ancestors, we are grateful for the many blessings being shared among the families and communities as we stand together to heal those affected. As such, know that NIEA remains steadfast to creating equal access to comprehensive educational opportunities for our Native students, especially after tragedies such as these."

Photo: Elijah McGourty, 15, right, and his sister Kylah, 16, left, hug their mother, Mary McGourty, center, on Monday as they stand at a growing memorial on a fence around Marysville-Pilchuck High School. --Ted S. Warren/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.