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Area Schools Deal With Violence, Fights

Wake and Durham schools are grappling with a series of fights that resulted in more than 25 students being arrested this week.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — School systems officials are imposing stricter punishments after a surge of violence at Wake and Durham schools this week resulted in more than 25 students being arrested.

School violence experts said that students often test the system at the beginning of the year to see what they can get away with.

"It starts with trash-talking and put-downs and small fights, and they build on themselves over the year," said William Lassiter, director of the North Carolina Center for the Prevention of School Violence.

If school administrators and police make it clear they can't get away with violence, things usually settle down, Lassiter said.

"If schools nip it in the bud in the beginning - to use a Barney Fife slogan there - if they really focus on it at the beginning of the year, we've seen those activities actually decrease over the school year," he said.

Lassiter also said school systems should look for solutions that are longer term than suspensions and arrests.

School officials said deciding what punishments are appropriate involves a variety of factors and that they are allowing police to charge students involved in fights.

"We look at the history of these individuals. We look at the severity of the fight. We look to see if there's any injuries," said David Rohrbach, the director of Wake County school resource officer program.

Durham County Sheriff Worth L. Hill said additional deputies are typically made available to schools during the beginning and end of the school year.

"Unfortunately, (violence) is becoming typical for high school students at the beginning of the school year," Hill said, in a statement released Monday. "We normally keep extra personnel available until the students settle down into their routines."

Wake County school resource officers said they usually spend more time just keeping up with the students, but are increasingly called on to keep the peace.

"We want our campuses to be safe for all of the kids here. That's our goal, and whatever we need to do to achieve that goal, that's what we're going to do," Rohrbach said.