Bullying suspensions down across Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Bullying is always a hot topic here in the Tri-Cities. All three school districts say it's their main priority to keep kids safe, which means putting a stop to bullying at all grade levels. KEPR looked into how many students were suspended for bullying in the most recent data, and whether the problem is improving.

From teasing a classmate or picking on a friend to gang related issues. School officials tell KEPR all of this is classified as bullying. It can result in suspension or, even worse, expulsion.

"We all know that bullying is in all of our schools, as much as we try to bring it down," said anti-bullying activist Adam Barry.

The biggest concern to educators is that bullying affects learning. That's why more anti-bullying programs are being implemented. Ruth Livingston Elementary began one called "The Bullinators".

"If we do that at a young age, then when they get into middle school and high school, bullying won't even be in their heads, because they only know the right way to do things," said Barry.

A couple dozen fourth- and fifth-graders are essentially deputized to spend their recess patrolling the playground for bullies.

"I think there's lots of less bullying, because there's lots of Bullinators going out there every single day," said fifth-grade Bullinator Jared Miocco.

All three districts say programs like these are the reason the Tri-Cities had fewer bullying incidents in the school year ending in 2013, compared to the year before.

Here's a breakdown: Richland had 11 more suspensions last school year, totaling 66. Pasco had 38 fewer with 103 suspensions. And Kennewick had just 23 suspensions last year, a 73% decrease from the year before.

Kamiakin's principal is impressed with his district's success.

"It really speaks to our district commitment to our number-one goal which is that we have safe schools. Safety is the number-one goal," said Principal Chris Chelin.

Fifth-grade Bullinator Adriana Baker is satisfied when she puts a stop to kids being mean to others.

"I usually don't like it when people are bullying with people. I get mad because people are being rude to people and I want them to be nice to each other," said Baker.

While there were 192 suspensions last school year as a result of bullying, there were two incidents that led to expulsion. Both happened in Richland.