Yakima County seeing fewer schoolyard fights between students

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- All parents want to make sure their children are safe while they're at school. A lot of attention is spent on keeping intruders and weapons off campus. Yet, in addition to that, local districts also work hard to prevent dangerous fights from breaking out between students. KIMA found that the number of fights at some of Yakima County's largest districts has decreased in recent years.

They've been a problem long before dangerous weapons started showing up at schools: plans to meet behind the building after class for a schoolyard fight.

Holden Lambert-Smith is a recent graduate from Davis High School. He transferred there after spending two years at Selah High School. The increased violence is something he wasn't prepared for.

"I never saw anything like that," said Smith. "They didn't really have anything like that, it was mostly kept under wraps, there wasn't hardly any fights.And, coming to a new school, being in Yakima, it was completely a surprise to me. There was a fight my first day there."

Although the violence is still present, after pulling the numbers, KIMA found the problem is getting better.

The number of fights that resulted in suspension or expulsion in the Yakima School District was nearly 800 in the 2011 school year. It dropped to above 600 in 2012, and just over 400 last year.
Sunnyside also saw improvements last school year, coming in at only 67 fights. The year before, they were at 149.

Holden said many times the fights seemed to be gang-related.

"I can recall one time we were there, and there was a big group of blue and a big group of red, and they brought out all the security forces, and they said, 'Hey, what's going on,' because that's a big red flag," said Smith.

KIMA dug for numbers on how many students are affiliated with gangs in Yakima County. The most recent numbers available are from the Washington Healthy Youth Survey and track up through 2010. While there may be more students that didn't report, the number of self-reported students shows a decrease in Yakima County, dropping to 7 percent of 10th-graders in 2010, although we're still higher than the state average.

Holden said the School Resource Officers and security were quick to respond to fights, and their presence kept the campus safer.

"Our schools need to be safe; our students need to be safe. There's no reason for our students to be worried about if they should be at school or not because of violence," said Smith.

Sunnyside School District has reported an 85-percent drop in gang activity at its schools since 2008. You can find a link for reports on how many fights happen at your child's school district here.