Dismantling Disproportionality in HCC & SPED

Dear Superintendent & Directors,

I am very pleased to hear you are beginning to tackle dismantling the racist constructs that surround our SPS HCC programs,  including the current system of recruitment and identification, testing and allowing outside testing, and many of the other factors which produce disproportionately white cohorts in segregated  classrooms, often even in otherwise very diverse buildings.

I myself am a white person who was a product of SPS highly capable programs in the late 70’s and 80’s. From what I am hearing from parents around the district, things haven’t changed much. Although I have plenty of deficits, including some learning differences, my quick processing speed was lauded from an early age and I along with a few peers were singled out for testing. Once being placed in what was then referred to as the “gifted program” known as Horizon, we were kept away from the other students and constantly praised for how smart we supposedly were. There were very few children of color in my classes and most of my classmates were from wealthy families who left the school district after 6th grade to attend very expensive private schools like Bush and Lakeside. Although I had wonderful teachers and access to a top notch curriculum, I know now that this educational experience did me a real disservice by not teaching me how to be an engaged learner in a classroom with students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I was also given a false sense of my own abilities, and taught to think of students who weren’t in the same program as other or less than. This was the wrong message to teach a child and I am ashamed to have been educated in a system that furthered white supremacy by excluding and denying access to students of color.

While you are looking at HCC programs, I also implore you to look at Special Education in our District as well. While sped is proportionally representative of the district’s demographics on the whole, programs like Distinct and SEL disproportionately serve children of color while Access typically serves more white students. I know that gen ed staff have attempted to place my two white students in Distinct classrooms twice during their academic careers and both times I said a firm no and was accommodated in Access or Resource level. I recognize that my white privilege positively impacts my children’s IEP’s, program assignments and academic outcomes. This should not be the case. There are inherent barriers to navigating the IEP and special education system that currently favor white culture, English language speaking/reading, computer skilled, housed families with flexible employment and reliable transportation. It’s time to bring that same anti racist and anti bias framework you are using to examine HCC to look at how our district delivers special education services.

Thank you,

Mx Shawna Murphy


Bee’s Summer 2019

This summer I had the pleasure of working with a program called Garden Innovators. We would all get together to pull weeds and plant various types of vegetables at Marra Farms for four hours every Monday, and two hours every Thursday and Friday. On Tuesdays we would go to a place called Clean Green Farms in Duvall where we would work in exchange for fresh produce. 

The next day we would sell the produce outside of Resistencia, a local South Park coffee shop where we would also work. Our responsibilities included cleaning the bathroom, countertops, windows, and children’s area, taking orders, making coffee, and operating the cash register in the shop. Half of the group would go inside for the first half of the day and while the other half stays outside and sells produce. Then halfway through we switch. 

Garden Innovators is a non for profit organization partnered with the South Park community center. Before I was a part of it I participated in a similar program called the Garden Squad also done by the community center. It lasted two months and the workload was smaller, farm two days a week, Friday and Saturday, and coffee shop on Wednesdays. Both were run by Gari Watkins, a highly qualified multi-talented woman. It’s an internship but for participating you can receive either a $600 stipend or community service hours. 

Some of the product we sell includes zucchini, yellow squash, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Russian kale, dinosaur kale, kombocha squash, Mexican sour gherkin, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, apples, purple plums, yellow plums, tomatillos, cucumbers and beets. But our program isn’t just about selling fruits and veggies. It’s about providing the people in our community with healthy, organic food that some of them might not have access to. One of the things we learned about in the program is food justice and the importance of proper nutrition in a food dessert. 

“People for Seattle”

Dear “People for Seattle”,

Please stop sending me these negative attack mailers filled with untruthful and misleading statements about Council Member Herbold. I went to your website to read more about your group and I have met some of you and worked for others. As a working class mom of two, living in a diverse, working class neighborhood, I do not have the financial resources to start a PAC to help fund candidates but if I did, I wouldn’t spend $87,000 sending this garbage to a neighborhood I don’t live in. Council Member Herbold represents me, my family and my neighborhood. She is responsive and fights hard to make sure that even though we can only contribute with democracy vouchers and sweat equity, we are not overlooked.

You and your families are entitled to representation that shares your ideals and interests as well. So vote for those candidates, in your districts, but as I noted in my research, none of you live here in South Park or West Seattle, so please stop trying to influence our race.

I see from your website that you are worried about homelessness in Seattle. I am too. I see families living in their cars every day. If you’d like to improve living conditions for families, why not use that $87,000 for low barrier shelters, work to raise wages for workers and help make housing affordable again in this city. I know CM Herbold is fighting this fight every day, but our battle is not with folks living without housing, it’s in making sure that there’s a place for everyone at the table.

Play friendly. Play fair. Think of others. Respect differences of opinion. Work to find consensus, but please don’t just throw money away to try to dominate the outcome of this election. The Council represents all of us. One vote each.

✌🏻Shawna Murphy

Bee & Beeba

Bee and Beeba

By Beezus Murphy

Recently I had the pleasure of having dinner with Nick Beeba at a local Chinese restaurant called Shanghai Garden. Most of you know Beeba, if you know him at all, as Macklemore’s DJ or from his instagram account;  @nickbeeba. But like most people, his life goes beyond his occupation. Beeba is 27 years old and grew up in Seattle, Washington, then went to college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

For those of you who don’t know, Macklemore is the stage name of native Seattleite rapper and song writer Benjamin Hammond Haggerty. With such hit singles as Glorious, Good Old Days, These Days, Summer Days, Marmalade and Can’t Hold Us. Before Beeba started working with Macklemore, he interned at a radio station with the late great J. Moore and DJ Hyphen. Beeba was part of a music group called Brothers From Another, and even had his own radio show. His love for music eventually lead to him working alongside rapper Macklemore after knowing him personally and being a fan of his work for years.

Along with being a DJ, Beeba is also one of the co-owners with Marcus Lalario of Can’t Blame The Youth. CBTY is a super cool, hip clothing store. It’s located in the International District just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the restaurant we dined at. 

Me: So, I’m sure that you’re sick of getting asked this but, just for the sake of those who don’t know, what’s it like working with Macklemore

Beeba: Um, it’s awesome. It’s pretty crazy, I’ll try and find the photo, but like he was my favorite artist growing up when I was in middle school. So like his album Language of My World was like one of the four albums I would listen to just on repeat. 

Me: Wow! 

Beeba: So I used to like to go to shows when I was your age and see him play, so for to like work with him now it’s kinda surreal now in full circle. I’ve always really liked and appreciated him as a supporter so it’s kinda like, um, an honor in a way to be on the same stage as him and play in front of people like all around the world. 

The main purpose of Beeba’s job as Macklemore’s DJ and hype man is backing him up vocally and, apparently, there’s some dancing involved. Recently while performing with Macklemore in Lucca Italy, a video was taken of Beeba dancing with fire while on stage and was posted on his Instagram account. He has been working with Macklemore for about a year now and, as a life long fan, considers Macklemore to be one of his inspirations. Beeba’s other inspirations include the Blue Scholars, and various other musicians and professional athletes.

Beeba states that his favorite genre of music is hip hop and he is partial to house music as well. Beeba considers himself to be a foodie but his favorite non-food related thing about Seattle is the juxtaposition of all the different cultures and terrain. His least favorite thing about Seattle is Amazon. 

I really enjoyed meeting Beeba and learning about the life he leads. As young person who hopes to have a career in the arts one day it’s inspiring to meet someone who gets to travel the world living their dream. I think that Nick’s a great guy and an interesting person, I very much enjoyed his company.

You can listen to my interview in its entirety here:





My grandmother taught me to wear stilettos. And be tough. And to always eat raspberries straight from the bush, barefoot.

My mother taught me to tell men who hassled us at bus stops to, “move along” with a loud and powerful voice as she gripped my tiny hand with all her might.

Shirley & Ginger taught me how to be proper at other people’s houses.

Kate & Laurie & Cynthia taught me how to run a house and to always keep tissues in the powder room (although I have yet to acquire a powder room)-and to address envelopes properly!

The AE Kid’s Time Moms taught me to do things my own way and never apologize.

Patricia taught me my kids could have my name.

Starla & Christiane & Susan taught me how to be a bad ass full time working mother.

Leslie taught me how to be pregnant, while working in a room full of mirrors!

Dr. Susan taught me how to give birth.

Heather literally sent me THE BOOK ON HOW TO BE A PARENT!

Hilary taught me I get to choose what kind of mom I want to be, and that doesn’t mean I have to be the kind of mom other people expect.

Claudia & Mindy taught me how to be thoughtful and always have presents & cards ready for any occasion.

Kathy taught me how to run a business with my own children in tow. And how to say, No.

Mitzy taught me how to use an Ergo. Michelle taught me how to use a Moby and a million more things this list can’t contain.

Pam taught me it’s ok to walk around the neighborhood in your pajamas and let yourself into other people’s houses when you live in South Park.

A Pathfinder mom taught me how to be the boss at IEP meetings-I’ll never forget seeing her through David’s office window at a long table with all the staff, calm, comfortable and confident! (I haven’t mastered it yet!)

Joey taught me how to be a fun and loving mom of sisters, so alike and so different.

Deja taught me to say goodbye.

Naomi taught me how to come back.

Heidi & Carolyn & South Park Robin taught me how to advocate for our schools, with a pinch of humor and an iron will.

Marissa taught me to write about it.

Leslie & Lisa taught me to speak your truth and be a firecracker.

STEM Robin taught me to be unstoppable.

Alicia & Hannah & Darcey & Diane & Denise & Shane & Amy & Sam & Lauren taught me its ok to ask for favors.

Janet & Susie & Laura & Rebecca & Melinda taught me it’s ok to text about anything kid related, even if it’s out of the blue, any old time.

And Lenora, almost exactly 15 years ago once said to me, even if everything else is falling apart, you can always put on lipstick. 💋❤️💐

The Sped Bus Saga Continues

On Wednesday, February 6th, after two days home from school because of snow day school cancellations, school was finally back in session with a two hour delayed start. Alas, special education or sped busses were not running so I sent the school board this letter,

Dear Superintendent & Directors,

Our district has a saying, every student, every classroom, every day, but today that isn’t true for our students who use special education transportation and taxis. I know Equity is a priority for the district and that’s why I’m writing you. This inequitable practice of not providing door to door bus service and taxis on two hour late start days must be changed. Door to door service is typically assigned to students with special needs. Taxi service is used by many of our students living homeless to get from a shelter to school each day. These buses and taxis serve the very students who will be most impacted by missing school. My own special education student is home today missing her sped and therapy minutes. I’m sure other students are missing out on meals that they count on school to provide. I also understand this practice impacts foster kids who are transported to their schools via taxis when their home placements are out of the district. I urge you to take this matter into advisement immediately as a policy change is long overdue.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

Mother of 2 sped students

Later that day I found out that there was a short window in October when sped families were allowed to opt in to Ice & Snow Route service. I asked around and very few sped parents knew about it and none of the school staff I spoke to had heard about it previously. On Thursday morning, school started on time, but still no sped busses were running, so I sent this letter,

Yesterday I wrote asking you all for a policy change that will end the inequity for our sped students served by door to door and students served by taxis. I later learned that although only a handful of sped parents knew about it, there was a window in October when when we could have requested a snow route. Not only did very few people know of this, but it is unreasonable to have only one time per year to be added to a snow route because students are assigned to sped transport throughout the year. I asked to be given an Ice & Snow route stop yesterday when I learned this and Transportation said, No.

This morning as I scramble to find a way to get my sped student to school after 3 days of missing her minutes and services, I have a solution suggestion. Automatically Assign ALL students an optional Ice & Snow route. Include this information in the bus route info mailing we typically receive in August. As students transportation assignments change through the year, continue to include their Ice & Snow route stop information in all mailings regarding transportation from the district.

When school was late or cancelled, I received an email, multiple texts and telephone calls in addition to your postings on FB and IG. When my older daughter is tardy to sixth period, daily, you email me and call me. Extend this excellent communication to information about Ice & Snow routes going forward. The sped community in our district must be more equitably served.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

Around 4:00 that day, KUOW’s Ann Dornfeld published this report,


Mic drop!💥

And two hours later SPS announced it would reverse its decision and accept Ice & Snow Route requests year round,

Dear Families,

Seattle Public Schools is aware that student transportation has been impacted by adverse weather. Student safety is our primary concern. We recognize and acknowledge the disruption the weather has caused our students and families. Though we know that some roads are safe to drive, many around the district remain unsafe and door-to-door services would require buses or cabs to risk the safety of their passengers. Seattle Public Schools’ official policy when schools are open on time, but buses are operating on snow routes is:

No door-to-door service. No Preschool or Head Start. No Out of District Service. No Taxi Cab, Therapy, Partial Day or Shuttle Transportation. No Before or After School Activities. Check with your school regarding athletic events.

Opt-In Snow Route Request

While the District arranges for alternative snow routes consistent with safety guidelines for all students, it cannot provide door-to-door transportation during certain weather conditions. Families of students with special education transportation in their IEP were invited to request a snow route in October 2018 and may do so again now. Parents/Guardians requesting a snow route are responsible for taking their student to the pre-determined pick-up location in the morning and receiving their student at the same location in the afternoon.

Upon receipt of the Opt-In request attached below, the Transportation Office will contact you within five business days.

Snow Route Request form

We appreciate your continued partnership and shared value of student safety,

Transportation Department

Seattle Public Schools would like to continue connecting with you via email. If you prefer to be removed from our list, please contact Seattle Public Schools directly. To stop receiving all email messages distributed through our SchoolMessenger service, follow this link and confirm: Unsubscribe

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Here’s the form link,


I was overjoyed! SPS listened and responded to community feedback and not only that but sped buses were scheduled to run Friday morning with schools releasing 75 minutes early in anticipation of inclement weather. About five minutes before Minnow’s bus was scheduled to arrive, I received this email from SPS,

This is the Seattle Schools Transportation Department calling to let you know that due to a higher number of driver call outs today, route 234 to Boren Stem School will not operate morning or afternoon. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused your family.  If you have any questions please call Transportation at 206-252-0900.

“We apologize for any inconvenience,”??? No transportation for my special education student for all 3 days of school this week is something a whole lot more than an inconvenience. I scrambled to get my daughter to school only to learn later that 40 busses did not run Friday! I sent this letter in response,

Dear Superintendent & Directors,

Thank you for revising your policy to allow us  to opt in to snow routes. Unfortunately this will not help most families in the short term due to the processing time required by Transportation, but I do really appreciate that you listened to the community and made the change. I hope in the future you will automatically assign sow routes to all students each time they receive a transportation assignment. 

I was so relieved that there would finally be sped bus service this morning and then about ten minutes before our bus was scheduled to arrive, I received the email below and had to scramble to find a ride for my student to school. I understand that 40 routes were cancelled today. This seems problematic considering it was the only day this week that offered sped bus and taxi service. 
Thank you,
Shawna Murphy

I strongly encourage everyone impacted to return their Ice & Snow Route forms ASAP. Realistically the process time won’t help families have service next week when they are most likely to need it, but I believe the community must demonstrate that we expect, deserve and demand to be assigned Ice & Snow Routes in the same manner as general education students.

(Minnow at Library Story Time Wednesday with my preschool group because she didn’t have any transportation to school)

And Monday 2/11, there was coverage from The Times,https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/as-snow-complicates-school-bus-routes-seattle-schools-chief-vows-to-take-action-on-transportation/

My Response to The Seattle Times Editorial Board

Dear Seattle Times Editorial Board,

You cannot fully appreciate the funding crisis in our Seattle Public Schools if you have never been the parent of a child with special needs. We know what it’s like to wait hours and hours for our busses to show up. We know what it’s like to be called in the middle of your work day and told you have to come pick up your child because the school lacks adequate support. We know what it’s like to be told your child can’t participate in a field trip or a group project or go to camp because the school lacks adequate staffing. We know what it’s like to have to change schools in the middle of the year because your child now needs a school with a nurse who’s on site full time. We know what it’s like to not be able to attend your neighborhood school, with all your friends because your service level isn’t available. We know what it’s like to not be able to have any say in what school your child attends because it’s left up to space available in a program in any given building, which may or may not be anywhere near your home. We know what it’s like for siblings not to be able to attend the same school just because of special education program availability. We know what it’s like to be forced to go to a school that doesn’t reflect any of your home culture because that’s the only school in the district with a program that serves your needs. We know what it’s like when the program your child attends moves or dissolves or gets a new name and your child has to start over again, and again. We know what it’s like to attend the IEP meeting, alone, when everyone else on the team has to think of the budget’s bottom line and you have to be the one advocating for your child’s needs first. We know what it’s like to have our child need a little more but it’s the day the school counselor is working at a different school because your school only has a counselor .5 FTE. We know what it’s like to hear, NO. No money. No staffing. No resources. No access. And our children shoulder the burden of these No’s, every time.

My own children have experienced many of these obstacles. They are nuerodiverse third and ninth graders and they are both special education students. They are both capable of functioning in a general education setting and thrive when exposed to high level engaging content, but because of their anxiety, sensory processing and learning disabilities, they require a great deal of extra support. For my youngest that comes in the form of a program called Access that allows her to be in a regular third grade classroom with special education teachers coming in to support her at various times in the day. Her school’s Access program is currently overenrolled beyond maximum capacity and 20% of the students at her public K-8 have IEP’s (special education plans) or 504’s (accommodation plans). My ninth grader attends the small public high school that is the best fit for her learning interests but because there isn’t space in the Access program there currently, she makes do with minimal special education support, which places an extra challenge on her regular classroom teachers who must find ways to support her along with their 30+ students per class.

So when I read The Seattle Times Editorial Board’s piece telling voters to vote against the levy that directly supports my children-on the same day I had received a call that my daughter’s school would have to cut back on her special education support, yet again for lack of staffing, I thought, THOSE IGNORANT MOTHERFUCKERS!! How dare they tell people to vote no on our Operations Levy when our district has a $72 million special education gap in funding from the state? Let me repeat that, our district has 7,000 students who use special education services. Currently our district spends $140 million on special education, which is not nearly enough, but the state only gives us $68 million!!!! Many of our students with special needs also require the care of school nurses. THE STATE ONLY FUNDS 9 NURSES FOR OUR 53,000 STUDENTS!!!!! The district employs 63; which is still not enough to allow children with medical needs to attend the school of their choice.

Our students with special needs deserve an amply funded education which would include: staffing and accommodations that would allow them to successfully participate and be included in all settings without limits and barriers. This is not happening now largely in part due to the lack of ample education funding by our state, and our state’s choice to limit our local capacity to levy necessary funds for education. But parents and those raising children with special needs already know what it’s like to fight for every penny, every service minute, every accommodation. And we know what it’s like to beg the good people of our community to give. I’m on Facebook almost daily begging. Begging for books for our libraries. Begging for donations for our auctions that buy everything from the balls on our playground to the teacher trainings to the emergency supply packs for our classrooms. Begging for advocacy. And now I’m begging for votes. Please Vote YES for Proposition 1 & 2. Renew our commitment to the students in our public schools, and especially our students with special needs who have so much to lose if the operations levy fails.


Shawna Murphy

Mother of 2 Seattle Public Schools

Special education students