PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Parents are furious with the Evergreen Public Schools school district’s communication after a shooting outside Evergreen High School last week prompted three lockdowns in the area.
Multiple parents testified to the school board Tuesday night, criticizing the district’s communication. One mother who saw the shooter get arrested said the emails parents received while their students underwent lockdown were traumatizing.
“We received several emails from the school district office to quote one of those emails: ‘Dear Evergreen family, I want to make you aware of a lockdown incident at our school that is due to police activity in the neighborhood,'” one parent said. “In the neighborhood? What a slap in the face.”
Evergreen High School sent an email to families about the lockdown around 1:15 p.m.
I want to make you aware of a Lockdown incident at our school that is due to police activity in the neighborhood. …Please know we take these situations very seriously, and the safety of our students is always a top priority.
The scare had also prompted a shelter-in-place order for than 4,000 people living within a mile radius.
Charles Keplar, an educator and assistant coach at EHS, was there they day of the shooting. He said some educators at Evergreen are disappointed in the district leaders’ response in the wake of the violence.
“Everything that is communicated has been so minimalistic, so reductive of what actually happened,” Keplar said. “And it’s just silly. They continue to go through this lie of, ‘Oh, there was an incident that happened in the neighborhood.’ No, there was a shooting that happened at our school.”
Keplar says students started fighting in the courtyard of the high school, and that later led to gunshots. It was lunchtime, he said, kids were running everywhere.
“The fact that shots were fired at students and staff has still never been admitted to by the leadership here,” he said. “And that very fact makes me question what kind of support those staff and students are getting.”
Parents and teachers told the board that downplaying the trauma students and staff experienced that day hurts the very people the district says they’re trying to help.
“Why is there no transparency? Why is there no communication? And how does that affect the trust that we as parents have with our school district?” EPS parent Angie Bunda said.
A district official told KOIN 6 in a statement: “The school and the district sent out multiple communications to the Evergreen High School and Cascade Middle School communities on Thursday sharing information as it became available. The letters started shortly after the lockdown was put in place…
“In the letter that Superintendent Boyd sent to all EPS families and staff on Thursday night he included the details and exact location (McKenzie Stadium) where law enforcement said that the gunshots were reported to have been fired. It was important to share the exact location so people could differentiate the factual details shared by law enforcement from inaccurate information that was being shared in some social media posts, which included posts that said the gunshots were fired in the school.”
Judy George, a parent of a 17-year-old student, expressed the fear parents felt during a shooting last week. She challenged the school board to “fathom what it was like” as a parent, to not know if they’d see their child again.
“Do not split hairs with this community. My child is not okay. I am not okay. This community is not okay. We deserve better,” she said.
The school board listened to the calls for change, and some members opened the meeting, admitting that they could — and would — do better.