Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, and hosts KPLU's weekend program Sound Effect. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

Ways to Connect

sea turtle / Flickr

For the first time in its 47-year history, the Head Start program is introducing some tough accountability measures. That’s left three Washington providers fighting for their lives, including a Seattle program with a storied history.

Via Office of U. S. Sen. Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks hit the Olympic Peninsula Thursday, trying to sell locals on a plan to designate more wilderness there. They say their latest bill is a grand compromise, and they’re hoping to convince Olympic Peninsula communities that fought earlier versions.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Fifty years ago a group of Seattle students were asked to make predictions about the “classroom of the future,” as part of the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair. They came back with a mixed bag: phones that fit in your pocket? Check. Flying cars? Still waiting. (None mentioned high-stakes tests, Lunchables or Wikipedia.)

This year as part of the fair’s 50th anniversary, the Seattle Center asked students to make their own predictions about what school will look like 50 years from now.

Sikh communities around the Puget Sound region say they’re dismayed and saddened by the mass killing at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin Sunday, and they’re appealing for more education and outreach to the broader public.

Arkdog / Flickr

Police officers working in schools can’t necessarily search a student without a warrant, even though a teacher usually can. That’s the upshot of a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court out Thursday, in a case involving a student at Robinswood High in Bellevue and the murky legal realm of cops in schools.

The Bellevue Police Department has five officers working exclusively in the schools. In this case, one of them caught the student with a bag of marijuana, arrested him, and then searched his locked bag without permission.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle’s new superintendent of schools won’t be voting for the charter schools initiative on the November’s ballot. He doesn’t care much for “site-based management” that gives lots of autonomy to individual schools and he’s leery of letting schools more easily opt out of controversial curricula, such as “discovery math.”

C4Chaos / Flickr

There are many more homeless children and young adults in King County than previous tallies have found, according to a new count out this month. The count found more than 140 children on the streets, in shelters or in unstable housing, and another 530 or so young adults 25 and under. Volunteers and social service agencies conducted the second annual one-night count in May, targeting homeless youth.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The city of Seattle and the U.S. Department of Justice have struck a deal on how to reform Seattle’s police department. The agreement heads off a threatened civil rights lawsuit against the city.

melissajonas / Flickr

Seattle recently spent a big chunk of money to improve services for homeless families with children, but city officials are at odds over whether it was spent solving the right problems. They grappled with it at a public meeting Wednesday, where homeless mothers told members of the city council that many were without a place to sleep that night.

A child who is 11 years old today could be paying more than $20,000 by the time he or she enters state school, according to an actuarial report prepared for the state's prepaid tuition program.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A Seattle non-profit is trying to help homeless youth back up their important documents. Why does that matter? Well, try getting a job, government benefits or any number of other things necessary to get your life back on track, without proper paperwork. It’s an especially difficult challenge for homeless kids, who have no safety deposit box, no locked file cabinet, maybe not even a safe drawer somewhere.

Steve Albertson of Springwire, a non-profit that began by providing free voicemail service to homeless people, says often the young people just have a bag with everything in it, including their ID, work permits and phone numbers.

Lower Columbia Ciollege / Flickr

Many of the efforts to improve schools in Washington are focusing on science and technology, and some leading educators are concerned that’s coming at the expense of a well-rounded education. They’re forming a group to advocate for liberal arts learning.

Jesse Michener

A couple of bad sunburns have left Tacoma’s school district smarting, and could help spur policy changes about students and sunscreen. Tacoma school officials say they’ll revisit a policy banning the use of sunscreen by students, except with a doctor’s note.

The district is getting national attention after a Tacoma mom’s story went viral in late June. Jesse Michener says it never occurred to her to jump through the hoops it would take to get her daughters sunscreen when they left for a field trip on a rainy morning, but they came home burned badly enough that Michener took them to the hospital.

Centers for Disease Control

Federal regulators are looking into a health hazard that sent a Tacoma man to the hospital over the weekend.

Adam Wojtanowicz ate a grilled steak, and ended up in surgery. It had nothing to do with the meat, or even cooking with fire – no, Wojtanowicz actually ingested a metal bristle from the wire brush used to clean the grill. That little whisker of steel can wreak havoc on the digestive system, puncturing intestines or other organs. 

It turns out to be a rare but not unique injury.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

At the core of Washington’s agriculture industry is science – you can’t grow a potato or cherry without knowing about soil chemistry, hydrology and photosynthesis. But the people who get their hands dirty in the business of growing and picking don’t always think of it that way.

In fact, the children of that workforce tend to struggle in math and science. Just one in four children of migrant workers meets state science standards in eighth grade, far below the population as a whole. The gap in math is nearly as wide.

Washington schools will be able to sidestep some of the toughest standards and punishments in the federal No Child Left Behind law. The federal government announced Friday it will give waivers to Washington and Wisconsin.

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has said under the current law, nearly every school in the state would get socked with penalties. Schools are supposed to have all of their students meeting learning standards by 2014, or else lose control over big chunks of federal money.

Backers of a measure to allow charter schools in Washington are scheduled to turn in their petition signatures Friday. Meanwhile, a pilot project designed in part to short-circuit the argument for charter schools was blocked Thursday in court.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

About 1,160 children in King County spent last month in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services. Most were separated from their parents because of unsafe conditions at home, such as drugs, violence or neglect.

But it may come as a surprise to learn that most eventually will be safely returned to their parents.

Backers of an initiative to privatize liquor sales in Washington are suing state regulators for clinging to too much power in the newly opened marketplace. The Washington State Liquor Control Board has the job of interpreting provisions of the ballot measure passed last fall. But Costco, the Washington Restaurant Association and the Northwest Grocery Association say the board is using a heavy hand.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Local and U.S. officials say they’re getting more aggressive about prosecuting gun crimes in Seattle, funneling more offenders into the stricter federal system. Law enforcement officials hope the threat of longer sentences and tougher prisons will deter more crimes. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said it’s a proven strategy.

As Seattle Public Schools begin their final week of classes, the district is turning to technology to rescue some summer school programs it cut last year. SPS will offer online courses at Franklin and possibly another high school, and three others plan to extend their school-year virtual learning into the summer. Cleveland and Rainier Beach high schools will have limited classroom programming.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

You might say the Dalai Lama was his guidance counselor.

When Choega Thundrup dons his cap and gown Friday, it will be thanks to the spiritual leader who set him on his path, and people who risked their lives to help him get there.

The Associated Press

The team backing a new sports arena in Seattle began coming into focus today, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom family putting their money behind the proposed venue. They’re the first to go public as part of hedge fund manager Chris Hansen’s team of private investors.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

It wasn’t on the school board agenda, but members of Susan Enfield’s cabinet paid her a surprise tribute during her final school board meeting Wednesday. Enfield is leaving Seattle Public Schools this month after 16 months as interim superintendent.

Enfield wiped away tears as a string of her deputies praised her, beginning with Enfield’s number-two, Interim Deputy Superintendent Bob Boesche.

“So my word is motivator. There wasn’t a meeting ever, an encounter ever with you, where I didn’t walk out [feeling] motivated to do my best,” Boesche said.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Seattle school counselors say they’re getting hit harder than ever by budget cuts, and a pack of them turned out at Wednesday’s school board meeting to protest the latest round of layoffs.

It all stems from a change three years ago to how Seattle Public Schools funds counselors in elementary schools. The district stopped paying for them as regular employees, and instead gave schools a choice: use your discretionary money, or let them go. Now, almost two thirds of elementary schools don’t have a counselor, and the district has sent pink slips to a dozen counselors at middle-and high schools.

Courtesy of David Hunter and Etsy

So, when the zombie apocalypse comes, where will you flee? Should you hunker down on a remote island or blend into the urban landscape? Will the undead funnel onto bridges and viaducts?  Do they like low ground or high ground?

So many questions … now don’t you wish you’d paid more attention in geography class?

"Zombies" in the news

The Associated Press

“I just threw the frigging stool at him, legs first. My brother died in the World Trade Center. I promised myself,” if something like this ever happened, “I would never hide under a table.”

Four people were slain when Ian Lee Stawicki started shooting Wednesday morning inside Cafe Racer.

At a news conference Thursday, police said a man sitting next to Stawicki was a "hero" because he threw stools at the gunman when he stood up and opened fire. Several people were able to flee the cafe during this time.

Courtesy of Seattle Central Community College

Seattle Central Community College may be well known for Occupy Seattle protests and antiwar activism. But school officials are trying to make the campus more friendly to returning members of the military.