School counseling, security talks planned

January 4, 2007 

Tacoma’s Foss High School is due to open at 10 a.m. today – some 2½ hours later than usual – and crisis counselors will be on hand to help students and staff members.

Meanwhile, Tacoma schools Superintendent Charlie Milligan and Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell said they will meet Friday to discuss security at the district’s high schools.

It’s all part of the process of putting Wednesday’s school shooting behind them and preparing for what happens next.

But several hours after the shooting, moving on didn’t seem too easy for some Foss students.

Senior Robbie Daniel, 17, said the scene outside the school after students left the building was one of fear and anxiety.

He learned over the holiday break that he might be going to Western Washington University next year. He was excited to return to school and tell his counselors the good news.

Instead, he was escorted from his history class before it even started.

His mother, Janie Dybdahl, asked her son if he knew the victim.

“He said, ‘No, but that didn’t matter,’” she recalled. “‘He was in the same school where I was.’”

Dybdahl admitted she, too, is worried about her son’s safety when he returns to class.

“When you go to Henry Foss, you have a higher expectation of safety,” she said. “I’m not feeling that safe about it anymore.”

Students Ricky Sithong and Matt Tennison were hanging out at the Narrows Plaza Bowl arcade after school shut down for the day.

Both said it’s scary how the shooter was able to bring a gun onto school grounds. Sithong, 18, admitted it will be in the back of his mind when classes resume.

Tennison, 16, said the shooting didn’t shake him up too badly. Still, he hopes officials take steps to make students feel safer.

“There needs to be more security,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials in other South Sound districts said the Foss shooting demonstrates the importance of periodic emergency response training, which is already going on in many places.

“This event underscores the need for constant vigilance at all of our schools,” Federal Way Deputy Superintendent Mark Davidson wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to administrators. “Please remind your staff members to be aware of what is happening in classrooms, in hallways and on the grounds at all times.”

Federal Way has an anonymous tips hot line – 253-945-7233 – to report possible threats.

Cautionary messages were also relayed by top administrators in the Bethel, Clover Park and Franklin Pierce districts Wednesday.

“This is an awful thing,” Franklin Pierce Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said.

He cautioned secondary school principals not to scare anyone by being “overzealous,” but to be on guard for unusual behavior or activities.

Staff writers Debby Abe, Brent Champaco and Susan Gordon contributed to this report.

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