As students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School head back to class, the devastating shooting last fall will return to headlines.
A report scheduled to be released Monday is said to contain horrific details from hundreds of students who were in the cafeteria that day.
Meantime, a student is seeking to block the release of her private text messages as part of the shooting investigation.
In a complaint filed in Snohomish County Superior Court, the teen said she was assured her messages wouldn’t become public. The complaint says the killing of her friends and suicide of her former long-term boyfriend caused her anxiety, forcing her to drop out of school for the rest of the year.
The report, more than 2,000 pages, is expected to flesh out what investigators have already found – that 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg acted alone when he shot five students last year, killing all but one of them, before shooting himself. Officials say the report is meant to establish the facts of the crime, not to assign blame.
But attorney Ann Deutscher, who represents the families of the shooting victims, said these incidents must be scrutinized in order to prevent them in the future. She has filed a public records request seeking Marysville School District policies around bullying and harassment, as well as specific student records.
Deutscher said it’s important to learn what officials “really know about Jaylen Fryberg, what went on with him in the days leading up to it,” she said. “We have concerns about that.”
Deutscher said the shooting has been especially traumatic because some of the victims’ families live on the Tulalip reservation near the shooter’s home. Surviving student Nate Hatch is one of them. He was shot in the face and has not returned to school.
“He is a wonderful kid,” Deutscher said. “He is trying to cope with this as best as he can. He clearly has both mental and physical injuries that are significant. He requires multiple additional surgeries.”
Concern for the mental wellbeing of students still plays a big role in recovery efforts.
Rochelle Lubbers is the recovery manager for the Tulalip Tribes. She said the recovery effort took the unprecedented step of offering suicide screenings for students last year, with parental consent.
“For the parents who were brave enough to have their students screened, there was a good reason for it,” Lubbers said. Few teens were screened, but of those who were, about half said they had thought about suicide recently – some going beyond that and making a plan.
In June, the Snohomish Health District found that the local teen suicide rate more than doubled last year. Jaylen Fryberg’s suicide was included in that number. But officials said there was no single factor behind the increase. They said youth in their region simply appeared “stressed” and “overwhelmed.”
Program manager Carrie McLachlan said limiting access to handguns is the most important step families can take.
The school district hired a new director of counseling over the summer, said Marysville Superintendent Becky Berg. A temporary counseling space in downtown Marysville was opened for students.
“We were really thrilled that Victim Support Services – who helped us all through the year – were able to set up a storefront counseling center,” Berg said. “I believe they have had a pretty steady stream of customers, so we were happy that they offered that for our students.”
Berg said students always experience more stress when the shooting receives media coverage, and this fall may be difficult between the release of the report, the federal trial of Jaylen’s father on illegal gun possession charges and the one-year anniversary of the shooting on Oct. 24. Berg said they will mark that day with a “walk of strength” starting at the high school.
“We’ll be planting red and white tulip bulbs,” Berg said. “The students have had a hand in planning this, and we all determined this is not a venue where we wanted a lot of speeches from dignitaries. It’s really just a chance to walk and remember.”
There have been two pieces of good news recently. Berg said the school district will receive $7.4 million in state money to build a new dining hall. It will be built on a different site than the shuttered cafeteria where the shooting took place, and should be open next fall. In the meantime, the school will serve lunch in three areas of the school this year.
Meanwhile, the reason that Jaylen's father, Raymond Fryberg Jr., was able to buy firearms despite a protection order against him appears headed for a solution. One of those guns was used in the shooting.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Justice Department announced a new program that will allow tribes to enter their court records into a law enforcement database. That will also include past records.
The protection order against Raymond Fryberg should have precluded him from legally buying a gun and from receiving a concealed pistol license in Snohomish County. But law enforcement authorities did not know about the order since it had been granted in Tulalip tribal court.
When Fryberg violated that protection order in 2012, there was no vehicle to make that finding known, either. Investigators said one of the guns Fryberg purchased at the local Cabela’s was used by Jaylen in the shootings. Fryberg will face trial on federal charges of illegal gun possession later this fall.
Tulalip tribal attorney Michelle Demmert called it an important breakthrough.
“A tribal law enforcement agency is going to be treated like a federal law enforcement agency, and will access the national database through that system,” Demmert said.
The Washington State Patrol calls the new federal program “a positive step” and has offered to assist tribes that choose to participate.
Correction, 11:45 a.m., 9/02/2015: An earlier version of this story misidentified the name of the school that the student who is a seeking to block the release of her private text messages attended.