Bullying down in Tri-City schools

TRI-CITIES - Bullying continues to be a hot topic here in the Tri-Cities.
Schools have taken on new programs and put in place new rules to stop it. All that seems to be working. KEPR learned new data from the state shows bullying is down in our local districts.

You expect safety.
Even a good education.
But what's said and done in these hallways - can compromise just that.

"Kids can just walk down the hall and they'll be made fun of because they're wearing a certain jacket or because they walk a certain way - it's just anything," said Kamiakin student Skyler Chesnut.

Chesnut is a student at Kamiakin.
He's seen the damage a bully can do.

"It's not right. Just be a big - I guess - happy family at Kamiakin," emphasized Chesnut.

Skyler and school administrators were relieved to hear the number of students suspended for bullying dropped in all three districts here in the Tri-Cities.

LARA: "you know, it does surprise me a little bit because bullying is there. And we know it's there," said Chief Joseph Middle School Assistant Principal Lara Gregorich-Bennett.

The newly-released figures cover the academic year ending in 2012 -- suspensions in the Richland Schools dropped the most -- by 28%. Pasco comes up second. Suspensions in Kennewick also decreased -- by 14%.

"When my parents went to school, it was okay for two guys to go to the schoolyard and fight. It's - that's not okay anymore," stated Gregorich-Bennett.

School administrators attribute the decline to school programs. Assemblies, guest-speakers and link crew to name a few.

Richland implemented "Make Your Day" for middle schools. That was five years ago. Officials believe it's now taking effect.

"It really becomes part of how your whole institution works - how your whole school works," added Gregorich-Bennett.

Pasco says it's the consistency of messages across the grades. Kennewick says the mentorship of older students helps stop bullies.

"If you don't like somebody, it's not okay to make fun of them," said Gregorich-Bennett.

Not giving up the hope of safer schools -- in a bully-free zone.

The state also reports low numbers for students expelled for bullying.
Those dropped in half in the Tri-Cities -- from six cases to just three.