A bucket of used needles collected during a cleanup project in late August. Photo courtesy of Katy Banahan
A bucket of used needles collected during a cleanup project in late August. Photo courtesy of Katy Banahan

Former Lowell Elementary parent Katy Banahan says a student hasn’t yet been stuck with a used needle along a pathway running through the school campus, chalking it up to luck more than efforts to keep the area clear of drug paraphernalia and used prophylactics. 

The city took action Friday, Sept. 2, to address the problem, closing the pathway running past the elementary school playground crossing East Roy Street, from 11th Avenue to Federal Avenue East.

“SDOT received requests for the closure of that right of way from both the school district and the PTA. Our staff visited the location this week and reviewed its condition,” writes Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Norm Mah in an email to the Capitol Hill Times.

“It’s got worse,” Banahan said. “Not since the right of way was closed, but since I got involved in the issue, which was the beginning of last school year.”

“It’s really frustrating, because we’ve been raising this with the school district and the city, I know for sure, since last January,” she said, “and not just raising it in general terms but in specific terms of needles and used condoms.”

“We did have people come out to the campus and look at it,” she said, “and we even had people come out and look at it and themselves find needles while they were doing their inspection tour.”

“Some of the needles that we found on that day were in the playground,” Banahan said. “and then, on the next Tuesday, the assistant superintendent of the district came out and she was looking around and she found a bag containing several dirty, used needles, so that’s what had happened in 72 hours.”

“This is not a place where kids are volunteering to be,” Banahan said.

“He did get a puncture wound right into his hand,” Banahan said, “and he had to undergo prophylaxis — HIV and hepatitis prophylaxis.”

While it would be great if there were cleanups of the pathway before students arrive in the morning, and again midday, Banahan said she knows the school district can’t afford it. 

“Our kids can’t wait for a task force,” Banahan said. “Every day that kids are on campus is another day that we’re relying on luck that they stay safe.”

“Once the temporary closure is in place, we will assess the situation and explore a number of long-term remedies,” Mah states, “with the objective of ensuring the safety needs of the elementary school while preserving the mobility needs of the neighborhood. We will work with all essential stakeholders on the longer-term resolution.”