High school is a city within a city

Complicated world can lead to predictable problems

  • Friday, September 24, 1999 7:00am
  • News

“Oak Harbor High School is home to nearly 1,900 students. That’s larger than the city populations of Coupeville or Langley. Space is tight, some hallways are narrow and, aside from academic pressure to succeed in the classroom, there is also pressure on students to excel athletically and socially.“When you have that population bumping into each other, things are bound to happen,” said one of the school’s assistant principals, Lynette Vance. “We’ve said we do have a problem, but I don’t think any school in the country could tell you they don’t have a problem with this.”Vance said that at least one incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying is reported every day at the school. The incidents vary in degree from simple spats to serious threats, but they are nearly all student to student.“It’s more personality conflicts than anything else,” said Oak Harbor Police Officer John Little, who spends his days on the high school campus as the school resource officer. “It’s usually the same kids in the same classes.”There’s no question that school personnel are keeping their eyes open to potential trouble. On campus, surveillance cameras scan problem spots, key administrators station themselves at strategic points and a uniformed city police officer patrols the hallways and grounds.Outsiders are watched and student privacy is guarded. When on campus, even newspaper reporters are asked to clearly identify themselves, and to get permission before talking with kids or taking their photographs.Dean of Students Pat Felger said despite the daily problems, school still represents security for most students. She pointed to the students’ reaction when they heard about the recent death of a classmate in a tragic auto accident.“Where did they come? They came here to be with each other. They came to where they feel safe,” Felger said. She also said it’s important to remember that the majority of problems are caused by a small minority of students.“Ninety-five to 96 percent of kids are in class doing what they are supposed to do,” she said.Barge agreed, but added a caveat.“It’s not a very dangerous place to be,” he said. “Unless you are one of the people who is being bullied.””

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