Before the first anniversary of the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, some family members of the victims appeared publicly to press for access to records related to the case.
Last Oct. 24, freshman Jaylen Fryberg shot five students in the school cafeteria; one survived. Fryberg then shot himself.
Relatives of the victims said Friday that they still have lingering questions about whether the shooting could have been prevented and whether the Marysville School District has done enough to ensure student safety since then.
Bryan Soriano is the father of Gia Soriano, who was killed. At a news conference in Marysville, he said he hopes that records the families are seeking from the district can provide answers.
“It’s been a year, but I think now is more difficult than ever really. It’s a day-to-day struggle for all of us,” he said. “There’s a lot of things missing in the reports and we just want them. I think anybody would want that for their kids.”
Holding photos of their children or wearing shirts with their children’s faces on them, family members sat silently at a public library as Seattle attorney Ann Deutscher laid out their complaints.
“We’re here obviously because it’s the anniversary tomorrow of this horrible event," Deutscher said. "We want to make the parents’ position well known and the difficulty the families are having in dealing with the manner in which the school district has handled this event."
Deutscher accused the district of stonewalling her request, submitted last spring, for records around discipline and bullying over the past 10 years. Deutscher said she wants to see how the district’s approach changed over time as awareness grew about the dangers of school violence.
Deutscher said she’s also seeking information about the district’s response to what she calls Fryberg’s “downward spiral": his declining grades, school absences and the fight that got him suspended the week before the shooting. She said Fryberg’s mother served on the school board, and Deutscher wants to know if his suspension was standard or lifted prematurely.
“It’s a interesting message to send that you can get in a violent fight on a Tuesday, which appears to have been racially motivated from the comments that are in the police report and based on what we know, and then be allowed to be homecoming prince on Saturday," she said.
Pat Buchanan, an attorney for the Marysville School District, said the district must first review millions of e-mails to isolate the records Deutcher is seeking. She said they will comply with Deutscher’s request and have already given her some policy language. But Buchanan said Fryberg’s student records are protected under federal privacy law and exempt from disclosure except with a court order.
Deutscher said she’s not filing a lawsuit yet, but that the families will make “an informed decision” once they receive the records. She also hinted that she may be contemplating other lawsuits, including something related to the gun Fryberg used.
Fryberg' father, Raymond Fryberg, was recently convicted on federal gun charges at the end of September. A protective order filed in Tulalip tribal court should have blocked him from buying guns. He is awaiting sentencing in January.
Deutcher noted Raymond Fryberg bought the gun used in the shooting at the Cabela’s Sporting Goods store in Tulalip and said “we’re looking into that issue.” She said she wanted to let all the criminal investigations run their course first.
In addition to questions for the school district, Soriano said the guns owned by Raymond Fryberg were another “sore point” with him.
“I’ve never had one conversation with this person, ever,” he said, referring to Raymond Fryberg. “They haven’t apologized that I know of…It was their son, it was one of his guns in his arsenal of firearms that he owned, and he was just careless with them. If I had a gun and my child took it to school and did what he did, I’d be apologizing for it, and he’s done nothing.”
The mothers of Gia Soriano and Andrew Fryberg, and the aunt of Shaylee Chuckulnaskit attended the press conference, although they did not speak.
Denise Hatch-Anderson was also there. She’s the mother of Nate Hatch, the only student to survive the shooting.
Hatch was wounded in the jaw and will require more surgeries, but he was able to return to a neighboring high school this year and even play football again.
“It’s a tough way to learn it, but he’s appreciating life,” Hatch-Anderson said. She said her son never stops thinking of the friends he lost.
But she said, “He doesn’t let it define him, either. You know, he’s accepting that this will never change and it’s almost made him stronger.”
Hatch-Anderson said she just wants to know that Marysville has done everything possible to make kids feel “safe and at ease, so they can get their education without fear in the back of their mind.”
Marysville School District attorney Buchanan said the district has increased security, counseling and suicide prevention services. She said the district’s paramount concern is health and safety along with the education of its students.
The U.S. Justice Department has announced a $2.1 million grant intended to help victims, witnesses and first responders of the shooting. The grant will help pay for crisis response services, both past and future.
The recovery effort organized by the city of Marysville, the school district and the Tulalip Tribes has planned a “walk of strength” on the one-year anniversary of the shootings.