WSAZ Investigates: How Violent is Your Child's School?

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Over the last few months, talk of school safety has been focused on preventing people from entering your child's school.

However, numbers reported to the state of West Virginia about what is happening inside those buildings has asking questions about the people your child is in school with.

The statewide database for this reporting system is called the West Virginia Education Information System or "WEVIS" for short. It tracks things like school fights, assaults, bullying and harassment: from last school year.

At face value -- the results are alarming.

With 89 physical fights reported at Enslow Middle School in Huntington and only 180 days on the school calendar it could essentially break down to one, every other school day.

"I think you have to be careful of, what is a physical fight?" Explained Todd Alexander with Cabell County Schools. "What a community member might think when reading that they are thinking about two kids throwing fists at each other going at it. It's not. It could be as simple as tapping someone in the back of the head, flipping their ear."

We added up the major offenses reported and based on our calculations Enslow Middle School in Cabell County had the highest number last school year.

"If you go in and look they are open to wide interpretation, what is a fight to me may not be considered a fight to another administrator," said Enslow Middle School Principal Ryan McKenzie.

In Kanawha County, the school with the highest reported number of incidents was West Side Elementary.

West Side Elementary is in it's second school year.

"Research shows that in your first few years of being a new school you are going to have lower academics and higher discipline," said principal Mellow Lee.

In the school's inaugural year 74 physical fights were reported. There were also 75 instances of battery against a student.

"It's not necessarily violent acts, but it is something the student did. We like to keep track of it and by doing that our numbers look really high but by doing that we were able to get outside help for a lot of our students."

With just a month left in the 2012-2013 school year principal Lee showed those numbers have been cut almost in half.

31 physical fights and 41 cases of battery.

Student Daudre Boxley will tell you he was a part of those numbers last year.

"I kept on getting in fights and I was bullying people and stuff," the fifth grader, Boxley, explained.

Boxley is proof the reporting, monitoring and the extra attention is helping.

When asked what changed Boxley said, "I feel happy not angry, I know how to walk away and stuff so I feel pretty good."

Superintendent Ron Duerring says the numbers, and the reporting, are taken seriously.

"The numbers are certainly an indication and we need to heed to them," Dr. Duerring explained. "But also it's a matter of reporting and what codes they had to put them under."

Dr. Duerring says he believes that things are moving in the right direction.

"We are getting reports everyday where students are talking to teachers, talking to counselors," said Duerring.

Principal McKenzie revealed to that the numbers at his school this year are also trending down.

In 2011-12 there were 89 physical fights, compared to 17 this school year.

There were 125 bullying incidents reported in 2011-12. With a month left this school year he reports 78.

"I think anytime a kid feels like they are part of a community which is what we work hard to be here at Enslow, it's a lot harder to tear down something that you feel like you are a special part of," said McKenzie.

Both McKenzie and Lee say they are still reporting numbers as carefully as they were last year. Both principals credit school and outside programs for being able to help change the atmosphere at their schools.

If you would like to look at the numbers at your child's school click on the PDF file.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education a * is listed when there are less than ten incidents reported at a school. selected West Side Elementary and Enslow Middle School as the schools with the most reported incidents of violence by adding the number of offenses listed in the database. The incidents with * were not included.

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