Maintaining a safe neighborhood in the midst of unsettling crises

As gun violence increase, students and security discuss strategies for communal security


Semai Hagos

Instances of violence raise concerns for students that walk or rely on public transportation to get to and from school.

Semai Hagos, Features Editor

As midwinter break came to an end and students made their way back into their regular routines, the community was greeted with the shocking news of a woman found dead on 64th St. and 15th Ave., just a block away from the school.

This is by no means the only tragedy in the Ballard community in which someone’s life was taken.

Last month, a gunfight broke out at King Smoke shop on 80th St. and 15th Ave. An armed suspect attempted to rob an employee who fired back at the suspect.

These events raise concerns for students that walk or rely on public transportation to get to and from school. Junior Mali Sanchez Aguirre explains that the danger is in the accessibility people have to guns.

“It’s how easy it is for somebody to just all of a sudden [shoot someone] in Ballard has increased even though the Seattle Police Department has deployed and sent so many more police officers here,” Sanchez Aguirre said.

She adds that she’s seen officers slacking, which she believes is because the increase in staff has caused excessive tranquility.

“[Police officers] need to be actually doing [their] jobs,” Sanchez Aguirre said. “Because there’s more of [them], [they] can do it more efficiently.”

Dwayne Mattis, one of the two security specialists, expresses grief for those who died and believes that strengthening the community would be a comfort to families.

“As a community [we should be] watching out for each other [and] making sure that all of us are making it home,” Mattis said. “I think we have a responsibility — especially for our youth — to make sure that they’re making it home to their loved ones.”

He expresses his belief that assault weapons should be revoked, with the exception of war.

“Nobody has really done anything to satisfy gun violence in this country, so that irks my soul a little bit,” Mattis said. “We definitely need tougher laws.”

He explains that there are alternative ways to address a threat, without using violence.

“If someone is breaking into your house, you have the right to call the police,” Mattis said. “If someone is stealing your car, you have the right to call the police.”

Despite the tragedies, Mattis feels that the school has provided a safe space for students and that the risk of such devastating events is low.

“We are very safe here,” he said. “Mandrell [Dunn] and I have a good leadership team with [principal Abby] Hunt and the rest of the administrative team. I feel like the school is in good shape.”

Junior Anya Souza-Ponce is aware of the shootings going on in the city, and wishes it would be addressed more in school.

“Keeping open communication with parents and teachers about what’s happening, how they [would be] addressing it and all of the subsequent steps [they would take to] ensuring that violence within our schools is not going to be happening would be extremely helpful,” Souza-Ponce said.

Like Mattis, Souza-Ponce believes that the school is safe from gun violence, but not free from targeted, non-physical attacks.

“I was thinking about the incident that happened last November, where a white student used the N-word,” she said. “But there’s constant attacks and [racist] pushes on identities.”

The administration has connected with students to discuss ways to move forward from targeted attacks.

“I think that having students in constant communication with admin is a huge step forward to progressing into creating a better school community and overall culture,” Souza-Ponce said.

Mattis expresses once more that he believes in the safety of the school along with his confidence in the student body. He also reminds students to look out for each other and to remember the golden rule.

“At Ballard once again, I believe that we are safe,” Mattis said. “I believe that we will continue to be safe just because of the type of kids that we have here. We have a bunch of great kids here that look out for each other.”