Kids from Highline are packing the roster of murder-case prosecutions, spurring school staff to reach out for help.

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This school year, eight Highline School District students have been arrested in connection with gun violence – two of them, 13-year-old middle-schoolers allegedly involved in a murder. Another two students have been killed and one is seriously injured.

The numbers have district Superintendent Susan Enfield and her staff reeling.

“These are alarming numbers,” Enfield said. “This is beyond a district problem, obviously. It’s a community problem. But we can’t just sit here and do nothing.”

As a result, and in an effort to find new ways to stem the underlying causes of youth violence, Enfield will co-host a public meeting with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg on Tuesday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Building 8 at Highline College in Des Moines.

“As of two weeks ago, we’d filed 16 murder cases and nine were against juveniles,” most of them from Highline, noted Satterberg, a district alumnus and resident. “School staff are just heartbroken.”

Enfield has received wide notice for her efforts to abolish out-of-school suspension, though when students break the law, she said, they are promptly removed. That’s part of the problem, she added.

“If I have to suspend a child out of school – and I do – where do they go?”

In these youth shootings – none of which occurred on a school campus – the accused include students who were currently enrolled, others on long-term suspension and others who had dropped out.

Satterberg said none are heavily gang-involved. Most, however, have little support at home. One attended a half-dozen different elementary schools. All received significant help from school staff. That is what frustrates Enfield most.

“I think there’s sometimes a very inaccurate perception that students who are committing crimes are invisible, and that no one was paying attention,” she said. “But every single one of these young people had received tremendous intervention and support, and it still wasn’t enough. That to me was a real puzzler. We’ve got to find ways to do better.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, students will speak, as well as school security officers and youth advocates. Enfield hopes it starts a conversation about the role of the wider community beyond schoolhouse doors.