Northwest NEWS

April 8, 2002


Students work to defuse violence

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   Northshore residents were shocked and saddened by the random act of violence that resulted in serious injuries for Inglemoor High School senior Sean Machak. He and a friend, both 18, were assaulted the night of March 30 outside a Kirkland grocery store.
   The attack left Machak, a very good student, a fine athlete - the antithesis of a "fighter" - with injuries that could mean months of recovery. His friend suffered minor injuries.
   According to Susan Gregg-Hanson, media spokesperson for Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where Machak was taken after the incident, "Sean remains in satisfactory condition resulting from head injuries. He is in pretty intensive rehabilitation, ... experiencing some movement on his right side, in the thigh and upper arm areas. (After the incident, Machak's right side was paralyzed.) Doctors are hopeful that over time he will recover full function of his right side."
   Gregg-Hanson thought Machak would be in the hospital two to three weeks, with rehab continuing once he leaves the hospital.
   As for the alleged assailants, three boys, all 17, all students at Juanita High School, and all party to the attacks, turned themselves in to their high school resource officer last Monday after learning the extent of Machak's injuries. A fourth Juanita student, a 16-year-old, was also implicated in the beating. All four were arrested. Each was charged as an adult.
   Juanita High School students were stunned by the incident. Their student government composed a letter signed by the "Leadership Representatives of Juanita High School," addressed to the "Students and Staff of Inglemoor High School." The letter reads as follows: "On behalf of the students and staff at Juanita High School, we are sorry for the difficult times that your school community is experiencing. We hope that future conflicts will not arise due to the actions taken by a few Juanita students. Please do not let the bad choices of a few individuals reflect poorly upon the entire Juanita student body. We would like to unite as a community of Rebels and Vikings to help each other learn from this horrible experience and we hope that it will not tear apart existing friendships. Please convey our sincere hope for a prompt and full recovery for Sean Machak and his friend. We also extend our sympathies to family, friends and the students of Inglemoor High School affected by this tragic event."
   News of this letter reached Northshore School District officials before the actual letter arrived. According to district spokesperson Pamela Steele, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer news article implied that Inglemoor had received the letter.
   "Naturally, we were puzzled when we hadn't received anything," said Steele.
   So Steele called Juanita High School, asking how and when they sent the letter. She asked if a copy could be faxed to her. Once a copy was in hand, it was re-faxed to Inglemoor High.
   "It was read over the intercom by an assistant principal," said Steele.
   Since then, "There has been quite a bit of activity between the two schools," she said. "Activity directors of both schools are in daily contact.
   "Some kids who belong to Young Life are looking at the situation and considering ways of doing something positive.
   "(Inglemoor) ASB (Associated Student Body) officers were on the school TV network sharing their feelings about the Juanita-Inglemoor issue. What they said was that the incident was about four kids who made a bad choice. It is not a reflection on Juanita High School per se.
   "Inglemoor ASB president said much the same thing on King-5 TV.
   "And students from both schools are talking about engaging in a school fundraiser to help pay for medical expenses.
   "And finally, (last Friday) during the lunch hour, students (were) asked to sign a "Stop the Violence" pledge. As they sign(ed)," said Steele, "they (received) a purple ribbon to wear, demonstrating their acknowledgement that it's everyone's responsibility to stop violence."
   In the meantime, contributions to the Sean Machak Fund, set up to help defray medical expenses, can be made at any Washington Mutual bank branch.