WRAL Investigates

Majority of violent Wake schools are middle schools

Posted April 29, 2010
Updated April 30, 2010

— A WRAL Investigation found that seven of the 10 most violent public schools in Wake County are middle schools, and many of those troubled teens may not get the help they need because of budget cuts.

The state formula to determine violence in schools is based on several factors, including possession of a weapon, assault, robbery and possession of an illegal substance.

WRAL redacted the drug possession numbers since that is not a violent offense. Once the drug numbers were taken out, the crime rate was higher in middle schools than in high schools.


1East Wake Middle331,05731.2
2Moore Square Magnet Middle1247325.4
3West Millbrook Middle2289024.7
4East Garner Middle271,11124.3
5Southeast Raleigh High321,58420.2
6Garner High432,23819.2
7North Garner Middle221,15219.1
8Carroll Middle1478517.8
9Carnage Middle191,08317.5
10Knightdale High301,75217.1

Wake schools’ senior director of security, Russ Smith, said there were fewer incidents of violence in the 2008-09 school year than in years past. He presented the following statistics, which do not include drug offenses, per WRAL's request:

Middle schools 2008-2009
311 incidents
30,983 students
Incidents per 1,000 middle school students: 10.03
Incidents per 1,000 high school students: 9.43

Middle schools 2007-2008
380 incidents
29,978 students
Incidents per 1,000 middle school students: 12.67
Incidents per 1,000 high school students: 8.48

"Middle school incidents have decreased by 21 percent, and the gap between high school and middle school students has been significantly closed," Smith said.

He added, however, that gangs are a contributing factor to some of the violence in schools.

"Gangs are an emerging issue and have been an emerging issue over the years. That is going to contribute to some of the numbers that you see," Smith said.

Programs help get kids back on track

Juan Almendariz, who was expelled from Garner Magnet High, says he knows he “chose the wrong decisions.” Now he is working to get back into the Wake school system by volunteering with About Face II Inc., a non-profit organization that helps youth and families in Wake County.

Darien Chambers, an eighth-grader on long-term suspension from North Garner Middle, is volunteering there as well. He says “being stupid” is what led to him getting suspended.

"I found out here that life is not going to be what you want it to be. It's going to be some ups and downs, but you can conquer it," Darien said. “I’m finding out that my choices do have consequences."

About Face is just one organization in Wake County that was created to help troubled teens and give them “a second change to succeed in life,” according to Director Robin Flow.

"Sometimes I think that having that extra attention means a lot to these students – being told that they are loved," Flow said. "And it's OK, you made a mistake, but let's not do it again. This is how we can do it differently. This is how we make a difference – tough love. We show a lot of tough love."

Leaders at Haven House say they have a common denominator – large numbers of middle school students with discipline problems.

“That’s a difficult age. That’s a time when kids are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be and who they want to hang out with,” said Michelle Zechmann, executive director of Haven House.

The organizations are also fighting for funds to keep the programs alive. State and local funding for those groups is being cut off because of the budget crisis.

"We don't know where the program will go from here," Flow said. "That's very alarming, because we are the only program in the Garner area that serves long-term suspended kids."

“Almost all of our programs have waiting lists,” Zechmann said. “When we look at that, there is a need out there in the community. When we look at cutting funding, we’re going to see bigger waiting lists (and) more kids not getting served.”

John Wall, the reigning Wake County Principal of the Year, said he is not ashamed that his school, North Garner Middle, is the seventh most-violent school in the county.

“I would submit that, as a principal of North Garner Middle, if I was included in that group it’s simply because I’m very vigilant in ensuring that the rules are enforced,” he said.

He acknowledges that there has been “an increase in gang activity” in the 12 years that he has been principal. To combat problems, Wall said he is firm but fair and requires every administrator to volunteer time with students.

“It’s all about relationships. Kids trust me, and I trust (them),” he said.

For Juan and Darien, the journey back is slow but not without reward.

“I know enough now for me not to do the things I did and not to hang with the wrong people,” Darien said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • SEOpro Apr 30, 2010

    "Our children in middle school need help!!!"

    Our children in all levels of school need DISCIPLINE. Bleeding heart liberals have taken it upon themselves to impose lawlessnes, entitlement, lack of respect for authority and prayer-less existences in our public schools.

    Children are taught to disrespect, talk back, expect more and do less. "You can't do ANYTHING to ME", they say.

    They are allowed to be on the internet and watch programs - even cartoons - that depict that mom and dad or other authorities are stupid and kids are the ones that "run their own lives" without consequences; programs rampant with sex, violence and lawlessness. Even video games are based on how many people you can kill, rape or extort. That is the goal of the most popular games - shown in explicit detail.

    Suspending children is giving them the desired vacation at home - because guess what. If you try to discipline a child at home and they don't like it, the school has taught them to report their parents to DSS

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Apr 30, 2010

    I would be curious to see a study county wide showing what percentage of the offenses were committed by kids who were bused into the school for socio-economic diversity.

  • BubbaDuke Apr 30, 2010

    Why is money the answer to every problem? We've been indoctrinated into thinking that money solves problems. Money won't solve violence problems - discipline is the answer. Why should tax payers waste money coddling spoiled, undisciplined, and disrespectful brats? That's the parents' job. The school can solve the violence problem by kicking these kids out of school and working with the ones who come there to learn. Society does not owe every person respect; respect is earned. Neither does society owe every person an education - it's there for those who want to learn, but for those who don't - let them be ignorant and poor.

  • wildcat Apr 30, 2010


  • wildcat Apr 30, 2010

    Not surprising! This certainly tells you how today's parents are raising their children. Send these violent kids to a camp with tough rules and regulations. That should straighten them out. If not, keep them there until they learn.

  • giovanni777777 Apr 30, 2010

    Ladies and Gen; I present to you Secular Atheism. Enjoy

  • Crankyone Apr 30, 2010

    I am shocked that Wake Forest Rolesville Middle School is not on there.

    Not meaning to fan the flames, but is there a direct correlation between the percentage of students receiving free lunches and their ranking on the list. (Middle School and HS only).

  • scorekeep Apr 30, 2010

    Where is racial breakdown of the behavior problems?" -scorekeep

    What business is it of yours?

    What business is it of yours to ask me what business is it of mine? scorekeep

    is this a middle school kid??

    Is it any business of yours?

  • wakemom Apr 30, 2010

    "Where is racial breakdown of the behavior problems?" -scorekeep

    What business is it of yours?

    What business is it of yours to ask me what business is it of mine?

    is this a middle school kid??

  • gvazquez205 Apr 30, 2010


    I agree with you. People don't pay attention to the deliquents because in their mind they are a lost case, most are special needs students, I know mine is...but they don't think...this kids before become deliquents had hopes and even as they are deliquents they still have hopes, ignoring the high risk kids in our school system would only lead this community to more crime and school drop outs. If that is how people think we should handle these problem, letting the delinquents on the sidelines and only focus on the good kids then I hope they don't complaint when one of those kids they left with out help assaults them or robes them, is it then when they would realize the mistake they did ignoring those kids?? Our children in middle school need help!!!