On Monday, The Center School in Seattle, near the Space Needle, was

On Monday, The Center School in Seattle, near the Space Needle, was evacuated and classes cancelled because a 16-year-old student showed up with a Molotov cocktail. Though no one was injured and the situation was diffused, in the aftermath of Friday’s tragic shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, it was more than enough to fray already raw nerves among parents and students.

This afternoon, Seattle Schools Interim Superintendent Larry Nyland sent a letter to Center School parents regarding the situation, saying that the school “effectively implemented their emergency plan,” and thanking the Seattle Police Department and the school’s staff for their response to the incident. The letter indicates that students met today in their second-period classes “to debrief and discuss about what happened.”

However, Nyland also says in the letter that Center School Principal Oksana Britsova has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a review to “ensure that all protocols were followed.” While Stacy Howard, the Seattle Public Schools media relations specialist, couldn’t go into much detail, she was able to tell Seattle Weekly that regularly placing a principal on leave in such a situation would not be necessary, but “in this case there were a lot of parties involved,” and further information needs to be gathered to make sure the incident was handled correctly. Howard went on to say that the decision was made today to place Britsova on leave after the school had obtained enough information to determine there as “a need for a further investigation.” Howard had no estimate of how long the investigation, or Britsova’s paid administrative leave, would last.

Here’s the full letter from Interim Superintendent Nyland:

Oct. 28, 2014

Dear Center School families,

As you know, The Center School experienced a disruptive and concerning event on Monday, October 27, when a student was arrested for bringing an incendiary device to school, prompting an evacuation and the cancellation of classes for the day. We are relieved that the incident was resolved quickly and nobody was injured.

The school effectively implemented their emergency plan on Monday, and I want to thank the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Center staff for working with us. In addition, I want to thank our parents who arrived at the school to support our students.

Today students met in their second period classrooms to debrief and discuss about what happened. Also, students had opportunities to meet individually with counselors. Your students might have ongoing questions about what happened. Here are some tips for talking to your student at home.

Stick to facts. Answer questions factually.

Remain calm and reassuring. Students take their cues from their parents and adults.

Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.

Notice when students have questions and want to talk.

Be especially loving and supportive; children and teens need you even more at this time.

Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, children are more likely to be so as well.

Pending a review to ensure that all protocols were followed, Principal Oksana Britsova has been placed on paid administrative leave. BiHoa Caldwell, a retired Seattle Public Schools principal, will step in to serve as principal during the review process.

The Center School families who have questions may attend a meeting at the school at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 30, with Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent of Operations, Jon Halfaker, Executive Director of Schools for the Northwest Region and Interim Principal BiHoa Caldwell.

The district is proud of the quick action taken by both students and staff during the incident. At Seattle Public Schools, safety is a top priority, and we appreciate the care and efficiency demonstrated Monday morning at The Center School.


Larry Nyland

Interim Superintendent

Seattle Public Schools