Mixed numbers on tobacco, alcohol suspensions in Yakima County schools

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- A new state report is revealing just how many students are getting suspended or expelled for using alcohol or tobacco. KIMA dug through the numbers to find out where kids in Yakima County are getting caught the most.

Cigarettes and alcohol: always concerning temptations when it comes to the thousands of kids in school across Yakima County.

New numbers from the state show the issue is complicated.

The Yakima School District saw a big drop last year in smoking suspensions.

"The number of tobacco suspensions dropped so much because we have a more visible presence of staff and security staff and SROs in the buildings," said Yakima Public Schools Safety Director Lois Menard.

While tobacco incidents dropped in Yakima, the number of kids suspended for drinking rose. It was different in Selah. Tobacco suspensions increased. The same for Toppenish. Like other districts, the numbers for the West Valley School District were mixed.

Victoria Wang-Miller has a son at Davis and another in college. She says both stayed out of trouble in high school.

"We talk about it as a health issue and what happens to your body if you do do those things, and what the chemicals can to your body. And so they really value health. And so they don't even want to try it."

Melissa Lemp says her daughter's track coach helps keep her clean.

"If they are caught with any semblance of drug or alcohol exposure or possession, they are automatically restricted from being on the team. Her track and cross-country team means everything to her, and if she was not able to be with her friends and participate in this sport, she would be brokenhearted."

Both parents say that while schools have a role to play keeping kids on a straight path, the direction that guides them starts at home.

The Yakima School District starts teaching children about the danger of tobacco and alcohol in fourth grade. You can see a breakdown of all the districts regarding tobacco and alcohol here.