~ A Special Section of the Othello Outlook ~
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Outlook among the best Spring Sports Preview B1 THUR SDAY
March 12, 2009
The Othello Outlook is the Excellence category, which Best Promotion of a Newsrecipient of eight awards pre- critiques the paper’s news, paper, third place for Best a B1 sented by the Washington sports, editorial content, Investigative Reporting,Page Newspaper Publishers Asso- photos and layout design. second place for Best Spot Girls second seed to state tournament ciations “Better Newspaper Other awards include a sec- News Photo, color and a Thursday for FridayBestSaturday Gen- Sunday Contest,” held Oct. 2 at the ond place for the Best Sports third place Page, two first-place awards eral News Photo, color. Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. Mostly Sunny Partly Cloudy Mostly Cloudy Cloudy, Breezy 2,400 entries Special on FESTIVAL the list is• WWW.OTHELLOOUTLOOK.COM a second- for Best Single / L 25º H 53º / L 30º H 53º / L 28º H 51º / L 34º PUBLISHED SINCE 1947 • HOME OF THE SANDHILLTop CRANE • VOL. 73 NO. Pro11 • 75¢ More H 49ºthan place finish in the General motion and Best Community from 80 different newspapers Service Ad, a third place for in Washington state took part News and Commuin the annual contest.
Old Milwaukee rail could be back on track nity Events: “Excellent gang series with tips and good photos.” “Good balance of feature articles. Could use more government coverage.”
Photo by LuAnn Morgan
A lone diesel engine sits on the side of the Hiawatha Business Park west of Royal City waiting for the rail line to reopen to Othello.
By LuAnn Morgan Contributing writer The Port of Royal Slope is attempting to lease the old Milwaukee rail line from the state Department of Transportation. The goal is to reopen the route from Othello to Royal City, which was abandoned in the 1980s. However, DOT has yet to respond to the request. Ò WeÕ ve thought we should just start to use it until they kick us off,Ó said Port commissioner Dave Miller. Ò That would get their attention.Ó The Port held a special meeting on Thursday, March 5, to discuss what the next step should be. They have been working on plans since 2004 when Clark County asked to take the rails. The commissioners were able to procure an extension at that time. They have now applied for a
portion of the economic stimulus package in hopes of gathering enough funding to begin the project. At this point, they are soliciting businesses that would show a deﬁnite interest in using the line, as well as letters of support. Ò One board member of the Big Bend Economic Development Council suggested we inundate them with letters,Ó commissioner Alan Schrom said. Ò He told us it would help our request carry more weight.Ó Since beginning the plans, the Port has built up their business park west of the city. Cathy Porter, executive director for the Port of Royal Slope, said four acres on the tracks were purchased at the park. Ò WeÕ ve had interest and our business park is ready,Ó Porter
See Railroad, Page A5
Irrigation district nixes roadway Royal super joins
By LuAnn Morgan Contributing writer Hayden Homes in Moses Lake wants to construct a roadway for a development located at Highway 17 and Nelson Road that would cross over a pipeline belonging to the East Columbia Basin Irrigation District. But, district commissioners are against the proposal and expressed their views to Russell
Brown, with the City of Moses Lake, at their March 4 meeting in Othello. Ò Water pipelines are not installed with that kind of compaction in mind,Ó said Craig Simpson, manager of the district. Ò Also, if we have to do a repair, we canÕ t shut down a city street.Ó Brown said the developer is planning to build a park for children living within the develop-
ment. Current plans run the road through the center of the park, which is against protocol. At this time, the pipeline serves one customer Ð Edwards Nursery. There is an active water turnout going north. Commissioner Roger Watkins asked Brown why the road couldnÕ t be built along the easement, rather than over the pipe. Brown indicated it would
cut off part of the backyards of some lots. The other option proposed would be for the city to take over the pipeline. Ò If the city is interested in making water delivery to Edwards, you could probably make a deal with her,Ó Simpson said. Brown didnÕ t agree with that idea, either.
See Roadway, Page A5
Sandhill crane festival is just around the corner
ItÕ s only two weeks until the 12th annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. Tours are ﬁlling fast, but there are still seats available on some of the crane viewing trips. Registrations are available by calling toll free (866) 726-3445. Again this year, the Othello Rotary is serving breakfast Saturday, March 21, during the festival from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. The menu includes eggs, sausage
and pancakes for $7. To support the local Rotary, you donÕ t have to pay admission to the festival. General admission to the festival is $7. Seniors are $5 and children 12 and under are free with paid adult admission. Throughout the day, children will have the opportunity to take part in projects that teach them about Columbia Basin wildlife. There are several new lectures
this year, which take place at Othello High School. Also, stop by the vendor exhibits featuring non-proﬁt organizations, which provide information about wildlife, and commercial displays. Several noted authors will be on hand throughout the day signing their books. Authors this year include Mike Denny, John Clement, Paul Bannick, Steve Shunk, Richard Scheuerman, Mark Amara and John Soennichsen.
There will be a list of times when authors will be available at the signing table, located next to The Old Hotel Art Gallery booth near the gym entry. Also, volunteers are needed to help the day of the festival. There are a variety of positions that provide opportunities to give back to the community. For more information on volunteering, contact LuAnn Morgan at 855-6677 or Jane Grant at 346-2316.
advisory committee Design: “This
By Bob Kirkpatrick Staff writer Rosemarie Search, superintendent of the Royal School District, has been selected to serve a three-year term on the Washington state Bilingual Education Advisory Committee (BEAC). Search joins 13 other regional committee members currently serving in this capacity. Ò I am glad to be able to serve on the committee,Ó Search said. Ò I was approached by Dr. Terry Bergeson, the former state superintendent of public instruction (OSPI) who asked me to consider the position. I have worked with a lot of bilingual students in the past 27 years, so I think my energy... my passion for bi-lingual education should be beneﬁcial to the committee.”
Current state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn congratulated Search, the former assistant superintendent of the Othello School District, for her willingness to work with his ofﬁce in the development and operation of educational programs for English language learners (ELL) in the state of Washington. Ò Your past and present work is highly commendable, as well as your support for students and parents,Ó he stated in a March 5 press release. The purpose of BEAC is to help facilitate the provisions of bilingual education and related services in order to meet the needs of students who donÕ t speak English as their primary
is an outstanding paper. My hat is off to you for all the good work you do.”
See Superintendent, Superintendent Page A5
A rude awakening awaits repeat offenders By Bob Kirkpatrick Staff writer Part four of a four-part series examining gang-related activity in our community.
parents.Ó Intervention, Gowan said, includes conducting classes on anger replacement training, victim offender mediation and community service by having kids help at the food bank, distributing food and clothing to needy families. Ò When there is a crime, the whole idea of restorative justice is thereÕ s been a wound to the community and to families É someoneÕ s become a victim,Ó he said. Ò So how do you repair that wound? Well, part of it is community service É giving back to the victim or the community that has been injured or dam-
Opinion: “Not as good as the rest of the paper. Need to The battle to reduce gang acdevelop tivities and juvenileeight crime into 10 commuOthello is never ending. to write columns.” Butnity over theleaders years, Dave Gowan and his staff at Juvenile Services have come to know three ways to combat the problems: prevention, intervention and suppression. Ò You have to get to them early,Ó he said. Ò We spend a lot of time in the elementary schools talking to the kids, teachers and
Opinion A2 | Community A3–A5 | Schools
aged.Ó Intervention also includes establishing and obeying a curfew, attending schools and obeying house rules and participation in the grafﬁti abatement program. If the interventions donÕ t work, the next step is suppression Ð lockup in Martin Hall for 30 to 60 days or longer. Ò We donÕ t want to use suppression unless we have to,Ó Gowan said. Ò But some kids are a threat to the community, to other gangs and are bent on destruction and have no desire to be good citizens.” Martin Hall Regional Juvenile
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Thursday, October 15, 2009
SECT ION B — TH E OT
~ A Special Section of the Othello Outlook ~
HE LLO OU TLOO K —
TH UR SDAY, MARCH 12
Huskies second seed in state , 20 09
By Bob Barrett Staff writer
SP OR TS @OTH ELLO OU
for the CWAC Dis trict champi- tin onship Saturday ez during the reg in Sunnyside. ular season were The harassing ful The poise and l-court de- to patience that Oth not in evidence when fen break produced a strong sive pressure by ello lost to Prosse the Mus- hurried the press, they forced Huski inside game end r 6353 to tan es will need to han from posts All gs forced Othello up the second see shots from 3-poin ison Walker, dle the into 26 that mi d to next turnov t land pressure weekÕ s 2A state Kylee Mollotte and ssed their mark. fro ers that produced tournament in Tiffany Mar- Yak Sixteen press and m their opponents 26 of OthelloÕ Prosser points. ima. play with poise s 43 shot attemp and ts patien cam When the Huski es were able Pro e from beyond the arch as the ce to get the ball inside to ir post players for sser did a good job the hig of kee her ppercentage shots. ing the ball away Walker. Stickel summed The senior post up and the CWAC kies HusCo-Player of the Year entered ope game plan for the state the contest averag ner. ing 18 points Ò Not to play like per game. tonight,Ó she said. She was limited to four shot tea Ò Play as a team. Win as a attempts and did m. And if somebo not score until dy beats us, hopefully, we los she stole the bal e as a team.Ó l and drove in A for a lay-in the fin al 30 seconds wo win against Hockinson of the game. uld send the Hu skies to a Thursday evenin “We took a lot of g quarterfinal shots and did not first chance game at 5:30 agains t the winner run our ofof of the Burlingto fense,Ó Othello n-Edis coa Stickel said. Ò I am ch Laurie Valley game. An ope on, West ning round ed when my team disappointt- loss would drop Oth does not play a like a team when consolation bracke ello into we t game at pushing that all yea have been 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning. r.Ó The loss denied the Huskies their first ever dis trict title and sends Othello to Prosser 63, the 2A state tournament in the Othello 53 SunDome as Pro the No. 2 seed fro sser m the CWAC. Lacie French 23, Wil The team will fac son 5, Hunt 7, e from Brush Prairie Hockinson, Petersen 7, Jones 18, Anderson, , at 12:30 p.m. Roberts, Evans 3. Wednesday, Ma rch 11, in the opening round. Othello Hockinson won St. Helen League the Greater Christine Kirkwood 18, Mollotte with a 10-0 10, mark and finish Walker 2, Juarez 3, ed the regular Martinez 2, L. Garza Villarreal 12, season 18-2, los ing two close 6. non-conference gam Ridge and Kennew es to River Othello 14 12 12 15 ick Prosser Hockinson misse . 13 9 18 23 secutive shots, inc d 21 conHighlights luding all 17 3 they took in the sec poi ond quarter, Pro nt attempts-Othello 5-16, to lose a semifin sser 6-20. al game in the Rebounds: Othello District 4 tourna me 40, Prosser 38. 55-46. The Hawk nt to Elma, Turnovers: Othello 26, Prosser 16. s to beat Ridgefield came back Othello highlights: Allison Walker to claim the 20 districtÕ s fourth rebounds, 4 steals; seed and earn Othello’s Kylee Mollotte Kirkwood 5 , Allison Walker and Chri assists their first berth into stine Kirkwood get thei the 2A state Pro , 4 rebounds, 2 blocks. r hands up to defend Pros tournament. sser highlights: Tay ser’s Tamara Jones. Photo by Bob Barrett shia Hunt 9 rebounds, 6 steals; For Othello to be Tam suc the state tourname cessful in 8 rebounds; Kelli Wil ara Jones son 4 steals, nt, the Lady Pet ersen 3 assists. The Lady Huskies a team that had nev played like title contest when er been in a they played
2 0 0 8 –2 0 0 9 S p r i
ng Spor ts Previe
Huskie softball will fea ture
y Bob Barrett aff writer
The 2009 version of the Othelsoftball team is goi ng to have ot of new faces. ut the Huskie coa ches, play yand fans are use d to seeing r team on top of the league ndings and this yearÕ es to continue tha s squad t trad oach Rudy Ochoa ition. knows ill not be easy to replace
to be tough to rep eat as league champions.Ó The Huskies ret urn starting outfielders Kylee Mollotte and Eden Garza and third baseman Brenda Rodrique z. Catchers include Breanna Montemayor and Alyssa Ma rtinez. Othello infielders include Mi tinez, Marissa Ma randa Marrtinez, Lorena Garza, Laura Ga rza and Nicole Valdez. Joanna Quezada and Jasmine Gallardo are among the
players include Julyssa McKerlie, Amy Bullis, Ch Jacky Valdez and elsea Jahns, Evelyn Miron. It will take a tota l peat as league cha team to rempions this year because Oth ello lost the dominant pitchin g of 2A Ò Player of the YearÓ Nina Gonzalez and All-CWAC First Team Michelle Wheeler and the power of Gonza home run lez, Michelle Wheeler and BiB i Villegas. So, Othello plans to play more
small-ball this season
Second place, best sports page “One of the better sports sections.” “Clean consistent package on the Preview section. Easy to read. Information and schedules are presented in useful style. Good job.”
hit or two to manuf act It is a style of pla ure runs. OthelloÕ s team spe y suited to ed and it is a style of play the Hu skie successful with ove s have been r the years. The Selah Viking s lensburg Bulldogs and the Elare ites to win the CW the favorAC title this year. Selah return s second team All-League pitcher Monica Stout among their sev en All-League players and Elle nsb first team All-Le urg returns ague pitcher
Outlook excels by design The Othello
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No? Run your classified ad in the Othello Outlook. Our new 5 for $5 rate lets you run a five-line ad for just $5 a week. And ad gets seen three ways in three days. Do you really want the only people who see your ad twice to be the guys who dump the trash at the post office? No? On Wednesday, The Outlook appears on newsstands all over town and people pay good money to read what’s inside. On Thursday, our paid subscribers receive The Outlook in their mailboxes at home. And then, on Fridays, just when people have the time to shop and are in the mood to peruse the ads, The Weekender for the Othello Outlook arrives in every household in the 99344 Zip Code. Professional advertisers know the key to success is repetition. Take your cue from them and place your ad where it will be seen & remembered. Or don’t. It’s only money…
~ A Special Section of the Othello Outlook ~
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Best investigative reporting, third place
“A real wake up story about problems in America’s small towns — gangs just aren’t for cities anymore.” “Good choice of photos and information, presented to reach the everyday citizen.” As a service to the community, we have reprinted the first articles in their entirety and have provided Internet links to the stories not reprinted in full.
Gang activity on the rise By Bob Kirkpatrick Staff writer
Photos by Bob Kirkpatrick
First of a four-part series on gang activity in Othello The juvenile crime rate is and beat you up for 30 seconds on the upswing as three sepa- to 2 minutes at a time. You can rate gang cells vie for Othello’s fight back or take it, but either youth. That may seem hard to way, they want to know if you believe, but it’s a fact. Just ask are tough enough and loyal Dave Gowan, administrator, enough to make it.” He said he’s seen video footAdams County Juvenile Court. “It’s amazing that we have age of the jumping and it is a town of 6,500 people, and pretty violent. Girls, he said, maybe a total of 7,500 in are inducted in an entirely the area, and we have such different way. “They get sexed in,” Gowan a big problem,” he said “If you didn’t know better, you’d said. “And the way they move up the ladder … the younger think this was east L.A.” The South Mexican Loco’s is ones steal and paint graffiti.” He said the perception in one of Othello’s gangs. Their tag is SMLX3. Their color is blue. the community is gang graffiti Another gang in town is called is a nuisance, with many wonthe Poncho Villa Loco’s. Their dering, why can’t they all find color is red and tag is PVL X4. something better to do? But Both gangs seem to have a turf graffiti in a gang member’s war going on in the alley off of mind is not a nuisance, he Juniper Street and Fourth Av- said, because they are markenue, as each other’s markings ing their territory and telling others to stay away and not resurface on a daily basis. A third gang in Othello is disrespect it. The worst sign of One Single Threat. Their tag is disrespect, Gowan said, would OST X3. They are an off-shoot be a rival gang painting over of the South Mexican Loco’s. the tag of another. Graffiti also sets the tone for Their color is also blue, but the two cells don’t get along. the future, he said, so if you can Gowan said all are having limit the graffiti in the coma heavy influence on ele- munity, you limit the disrespect mentary and teen-aged kids and you can limit the violence. “When we see graffiti, we in the community. “They are recruited at a try to paint over it as fast as very young age,” he said. we can … before any disre“Some as early as the fourth spect is written,” Gowan said. “But we are way behind on it.” or fifth grade.” Over the past few months, The indoctrination of local youth into any one of the Othello has seen an escalation gangs varies and is often more in residential burglaries, asdangerous than some of the saults, motor vehicle theft, malicious mischief (paint graffiti) crimes they commit. “Prospective members get and possession of firearms. Last week, 19 juveniles apjumped in to gang status,” Gowan said. “That means peared before Superior Court members of the gang you want Judge Richard Miller to offer to join take you out somewhere pleas for various charges, in-
cluding a drive-by shooting by a 15 year old named Guadalupe “Spider” Campos, gang member with SML , who has a repeated history of assault behavior. Gowan, who has been working in the juvenile court system since 1988, said the rise in gang-related problems hasn’t suddenly appeared over night. “The governor’s Juvenile Advisory Council puts out a report on juvenile crime in the 39 counties,” Gowan said. “Our county always has the highest juvenile arrest rate per capita.” He said it’s sometimes by a little, but sometimes, by a lot. The majority of incidents are property-related crimes, which Gowan said are often gang related. He said kids are also being arrested for minor in possession of alcohol. “We’re high on the arrest rate right now,” he said. “We’re down a position and it’s hurting us.” The Adams County Juvenile Services staff in Othello has four probation officers currently monitoring more than 100 kids. Gangs started to come into play in Othello about 20 years ago, Gowan said. They built strength into the mid-90s and his department saw a huge increase in juvenile arrests and juvenile crime. “That’s because the county added staff to the juvenile court to help combat the problem and also to be a little bit more proactive by providing
interventions for the youth and their families,” Gowan said. “As a result, gang related activity subsided for a few years, but gang issues still existed.” However, in 2000, staff was reduced and activity began to pick back up. “I don’t know if it totally correlated with staffing,” he said, “but gang activity increased again.” So, staff was beefed up again in 2002 and things stabilized. But his department is down a position again because one of his probation officers went to work at Coyote Ridge Correction Center in July of 2008 and wasn’t replaced. The position is not budgeted for 2009, Gowan said, so that still leaves Othello’s Juvenile Services Department short-handed in the battle against juvenile and gang-related crimes. The person who held that particular position not only had their own caseload, he said, but was also responsible for supervising the workers after school, weekends and nights. Being down a person means they have to scramble to keep the community services part going. Gowan said the city has brought in juvenile gang specialists in the past who’ve said Othello has gang-related issues but not gang problems. However, he said, when prevention is reduced (office not properly staffed), that’s when the issues become a problem. “With the drive-by shooting that occurred last year, and all
of the knives being pulled lately, to me,” he said, “that’s a signal the so-called issues are gravitating toward bigger problems.” Although juvenile crime and gang-related activity is on the upswing in Othello, Gowan said he wants people to know not every kid in town is a bad apple. “I want people to be informed, but I don’t want anyone to be overly alarmed,” he said. “There are a lot of good kids in the community. Unfortunately, in juvenile court, we are dealing with a lot of the ones who are making some rough decisions.” He said if people in town become more proactive and call the police when they see someone walking around their neighborhood at night they don’t recognize, it would help their effort to curb the malicious mischief. Establishing a neighborhood watch program, making sure the perimeter of your house is well lit and a barking dog are all good deterrents. Gowan said it’s important to let the community know of the resurgence of gang-related activities. He said if you find graffiti in your neighborhood or on your property, you should cover it up (paint over it) or call his office and they’ll respond to it — but not as quickly as they had in the past when they had adequate staffing. He said property owners who paint over the graffiti are safe from retaliation, as gang members have a peculiar sense of whose property it really is. They
just don’t want rival gangs to disrespect their markings. Gowan said it’s been his experience that, in general, most kids are not bad individually, but when they congregate in groups and start showing off to each other, that’s when most of the trouble begins. “The majority of gang activity is conducted by younger members trying to make a name for themselves,” he said. “It’s not the OG’s … original gang members, and when I say older, they may only be 18 to 23 years old, but it’s the younger kids who have to prove their worth. They are the ones doing all the burglarizing, selling the drugs, stealing the beer, painting the graffiti, wielding the knives and pulling the triggers.” Plenty of challenges lie ahead for the short-handed staff at Othello’s Juvenile Services Department in the days to come as they combat the rise of gang activity in and around town. “Dealing with the budgetary constraints we have right now, we are doing the best we can,” Gowan said. Next week: A peek into the school district’s role to help students identify gang members in and out of the classroom and what to do about it, and local law enforcement efforts to reduce juvenile crime and gang activity in Othello.
Part two of a four-part series Police Chief Steve Dunnagan on gang activity agrees there has been a recent increase in the number of casBy Bob Kirkpatrick es of graffiti around town. He Staff writer also acknowledges Othello’s
juvenile arrest rate has always been among the highest in Adams County when compared to the statewide average. But Dunnagan, who has been
the head of the OPD for the last four years, said he doesn’t necessarily think the two equate to gang-related issues. “I think the arrest rate
is high because we have a school resource officer and we take a fairly non-tolerant attitude when it comes to juvenile crime,” he said. “As far a gang activity, what we really have going on right now, the crux of it is graffiti.” Dunnagan said the juvenile crime trend is a national one, so it’s not just happening here in Othello. As far as the intensity level of juvenile crime in the city, he said things need to remain in context. “Their department (Juvenile Services) solely revolves around the juvenile world; we have to look at the big picture,” he said. “Where as they may be seeing an increase in juvenile burglaries for the filings they get, overall, we are actually down 50 percent for the same time period over last year.” Adams County Sheriff Doug Barger has been in the area since 1976. He said the activity he sees today is nothing compared to what he witnessed 18 years ago. “I don’t know that we’ve seen an increase in gang-related activity,” he said. “In the early 90s, we had a definite problem. In fact, Kiwanis Park didn’t belong to the citizens of Othello, it belonged to the gangs.” Both the city and the county, he said, had to assign person-
nel to eradicate gang activities. It took a little time, but they were able to do that. But since that time, he said he knows there is gang activity going on in Othello but disagreed to the degree of intensity that was expressed by in the previous article. ”I think we have gang members living in the county just like they (OPD) have members that live in town,” Barger said. “But I also think there is a big difference between gang activity and juvenile arrests. Just because you are a juvenile, it doesn’t make you a gang member and just because you are a gang member, it doesn’t mean you are doing gang crime at the time.” Barger does, however, believe there is a common thread between juvenile crime and gang associations. “I think as a society as a whole, we have a lot of issues with young people because we’ve quit taking responsibility for our kids,” he said. “There are more single parent families and probably a generation of us who’ve detached from our kids and there is no buy in with them, so they naturally ‘test the envelope’ to see how much they can get away with.” See Gangs, Page D
These are some of the weapons and contraband recently confiscated from three different gang cells in and around the Othello area.
Law enforcement role to curb juvenile crime & gang activity
Photo by LuAnn Morgan
Best spot news photo – color, second place: “You captured the exciting moment. Good photo!”
Thursday, October 15, 2009
~ A Special Section of the Othello Outlook ~
Gangs: ‘…kids like to emulate their favorite rapper’ continued from page C
He said schools are often the best contact the kids have with somebody of an adult nature. Dunnagan agrees. “Absolutely,” he said. “Education and early development are also issues. We have a mobile society as well. And while I don’t believe there are any formalized or structured organizational ties between here and California, there are folks who come to this area and stay for a length of time because they are working migrant situations. So, there is influence for other locations, but not necessarily an organized tie.” Although Dunnagan and Barger don’t experience the same intensity level as the Juvenile Services, they do agree juvenile crimes and gang activity do exist in and around Othello. They also know it takes a joint effort between their departments and Juvenile Services to suppress the activity and to help educate the community. The person charged with a big part of that responsibility from the law enforcement side of things is Officer Jason Corcoran, with the OPD. He is school resource officer for the Othello School District and is both a physical deterrent in uniform and an educator who tells to students about the dangers of gang involvement and juvenile delinquency. “I talk to them about my personal experience dealing with at risk kids in a heavy gang populated area of Chicago,” he said. “I have friends who are former gang members who now work in gang
resistance programs, so I have a unique perspective to offer.” Corcoran said he understands how kids without a family structure yield to the temptation of becoming a gang member. “In the short-term, it’s very appealing to them because it gives them an immediate peer group,” he said. “But in the long term, I want them to think about how certain things may be perceived, especially to future employers who happen to notice things like tattoos. They may associate you with being in a gang even though you might not be.” Building and maintaining relationships with students in and out of the classroom is key to keeping the kids on the right path, Corcoran said, but he doesn’t necessarily want to befriend them because he would lose their respect. As he is patrolling the hallways, he is always mindful of the way kids are communicating and the company they are keeping. “I look for specific details,” he said. “I am keeping an eye on what type of clothing they are wearing and I look at their body language … how they are carrying themselves … and the attitudes they display.” He said it can a bit more difficult these days to spot individuals with questionable character. “Things are ever evolving and kids are more discrete than they have been in the past,” he said. Corcoran said pop culture has a heavy influence on to-
day’s youth, but it doesn’t mean all kids are involved in gang related activities. “Rap music has an effect on fashion and kids like to emulate their favorite rapper, so even though the way they dress might give the appearance they are affiliated with a gang, they may not be.” But, he said, if a kid is expressing gang-related behavior or juvenile delinquency, that is a cause for concern. “It’s a fine line,” he said. “Kids are very impressionable at a young age. And by the time they reach junior high, the peer pressure can be tremendous as they are discovering who they are.” If children don’t have a strong family structure where they loved and have a strong sense of self-worth, Corcoran said, it’s easy for a kid who is lacking an emotional connection with their parents to fall into precarious situations. “Gangs can fill in the gap and give kids an instant acceptance into a system where people look out for each other,” he said. “Kids then consider the gang members as part of their extended family.” But gang affiliation doesn’t last long in a school setting, he said, because it is unacceptable behavior and the schools have a zero tolerance policy. Next week: What the Othello School District is doing to educate students to prevent gang activity on school grounds.
Photo by Bob Barrett
Best general news photo – color, third place: “Nice night shot — good way to draw folks to a big community event.”
Schools doing their part to discourage delinquent behavior By Bob Kirkpatrick Staff writer Part three of a four part series on gang activity and juvenile crime in Othello Efforts to turn young students into responsible citizens and stave off gang associations begin at an early age in the Othello School District. “It starts at the elementary school level with our Character Counts program that teaches kids respect and responsibility,” Mike Villarreal, assistant superintendent, Othello School District, said. “We also hold assemblies to get all the kids involved, which is a real key to combating behavioral problems.” Villarreal said over the past two years, the district has brought in keynote speakers to address the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), such as Dr. Arevlo, president at Eastern Washington University, and Dr. Uriel Iniquez, who is the executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, to help get the message across. “They spoke about kids setting goals to go to college and parents’ civic responsibility to get involved in their child’s life,” Villarreal said. “He told the kids to take care of their schools and be proud of what our community has to offer.” Villarreal said not all kids buy into the positive reinforcement, however, and choose to branch off into select groups because they do not have a good support system at home, so they tend to gravitate toward bad behavior. When that happens, Villarreal said he is glad to have SRO Jason Corcoran on hand. “He really knows how to connect to kids,” he said. “He has a good relationship with them ... and they trust him. He is a real asset to the district and we are fortunate to have him here.” The education continues at McFarland Junior High. “The school adopted a strict dress code to curtail to some degree, the gang demonstrations that were going on at school, before I got here,” said Dennis Adams, principal, McFarland Jr.
High. “There can be no writing on any clothing unless it falls within a two-inch square patch, unless they are wearing Othello School District apparel. No baggy pants, no sport endorsed T-shirts and no more than three kids assembled together wearing the same type of clothing.” That’s because it is considered a demonstration of membership to some sort of group, he said. It might not be gang-related, but it is an intimidating factor. Tagging on notebooks is not allowed at any of the schools in the district, because it may appear gang-related. Adams said the school also offers training to students to help them recognize gang activity and other things to look for. Corcoran is also available every day as backup if need be. “He does a great job helping the kids associate the OPD as not a punitive organization,” Adams said. “He’s visible, approachable and compassionate. He does a good job with public relations and with parents and students to help them fight the temptations of gravitation toward gang association.” The school district also has a character education program called Rachel’s Challenge, which Adams said has had a tremendous impact on the climate at McFarland. “Rachel Scott was one of the first kids killed at Columbine,” he said. “As a 15 year old, she was a tremendous influence at the time and had a desire to make her school a friendly place. One of her relatives gave an assembly at our school three years ago and the following year, her sister came and kicked off the school year.” Adams said the school also has clubs to help students get comfortable with the atmosphere, which can be tough on incoming kids as it helps to diffuse and decrease fighting. He said teachers also buy into the clubs because it curtails the desire for kids to bully others. “So far this year, things have been going great,” Adams said. One of the biggest challenges he said kids face today that is having a tremendous impact
on behavior is the poor shape of the nation’s economy. ”Parents are losing their jobs and not finding replacement work and that has an effect on their child’s learning ability,” Adams said. “Sometimes, the atmosphere is so bad at home because their parents are unemployed, the kids don’t want to go home.” He said parents need to always stay involved with their kids in and out of the classroom and to take an interest regardless of their work schedule. OHS Othello High School principal Matt Stevens said gangrelated issues have been minimal over the last three to four years as administration and staff have taken a proactive approach to educate students on criminal affiliations. “The primary problems we are having are taggings and markings in the bathrooms,” Stevens said. “It’s usually once or twice a year and every once in a while, the outside of the building gets hit on a weekend. But the district maintenance crews have it removed before 8 on a Monday morning.” Stevens said the school has brought in speakers in an assembly setting to educate students on gang awareness but admits it hasn’t produced many results for the “hardcore individuals.” However, he said individual counseling, which is offered at OHS, is more productive because it is done one-on-one in private and the counselor has a better opportunity to observe behavior and body language. “We also have a program called C.H.A.O.S,” Stevens said, “Creating Hope at Our School that deals with bullying and harassment by students.” In addition, the SRO has established a relationship with kids in and out of the school, which has been very helpful, Stevens said, because he does presentations and the kids say they feel safer when they see an officer in uniform on the school grounds. “I talk to the kids about their future … what they are going to do when they are 18
or 20 and they realize they don’t have many job opportunities without a high school diploma,” Corcoran said. So far this year, there hasn’t been any multiple-person gang fights and no weapons or drugs confiscated, Stevens said. And in the grand scheme of things, he doesn’t see much, if any, gang recruiting going on because he said members are usually recruited before they reach high school “The hardcore members are typically approached in the fifth and sixth grade,” he said. “Most are introduced by family members, like a cousin, an aunt or uncle or brother or sister.” Stevens said wannabes, or pledges, form permanent groups, friends and affiliates by the eighth and ninth grade and several groups are formed within the groups. But in general, he said kids involved in gangs don’t engage at school because it can lead to expulsion and if you are not in school, it is hard to make contact. “Most of the kids in Othello are not hardcore gang members,” Stevens said. “They are just kids looking for a little excitement. And those who are, are being manipulated and don’t understand the full picture they are participating in.” He said Othello, when compared to Grandview and Sunnyside in the Yakima area and even in Moses Lake, does not have a high volume of gang activity. “That’s because Dave Gowan with Juvenile Court has done a good job of identifying key players and either monitors them or has them removed from the community.” ALPS The common perception of the alternative public school (ALPS) has been all the troubled youth in the community end up there because they cannot function in the typical learning environment or in society as well. But, Leonard Lusk, principal at ALPS, said that’s just not the case. “We don’t allow the bad apples here, either,” he said. “A lot of our students here are
ELL learners who are at a disadvantage because they don’t speak English very well.” Lusk said most students attending ALPS know it’s their last chance for an education outside of a community college setting, so the gang-related behavior is not an issue on school property. “With the smaller student-toteacher ratio here and an education assistant in every class, we have a lot of hands-on education going on so it’s easier to recognize trouble before it has a chance to escalate.” ALPS has approximately 75 kids enrolled, compared to 800 or so at OHS. Although the class size of 25 kids is similar to the class size at OHS, he said the EAs give teachers another set of eyes in the room. However ALPS does have its share of discipline problems and when something does arise or a student is falling behind at ALPS, Lusk does have an option to exercise to get the students back in line. “They get sent to SEEPs and if they fail there, they are expelled from the school system,” he said. “If they want to come back to school, they have to reapply to at the district level.” The SRO is also an important cog in the success rate of students who graduate from ALPS. “Jason (Corcoran) is a great resource to have here,” Lusk said. “He’s only a phone call away and will answer any questions the kids have. Whether it is dealing with illegal contraband, the penalty for possessing marijuana, situations dictating consensual sex or the penalty for painting graffiti, he makes the students aware there is a consequence for every action they take.” Corcoran said he hasn’t experienced much gang-related activities or juvenile crime at either Othello High School or ALPS. “Kids tend to be respectful of the school grounds because we (I) take the time talk to them and help them make sound decisions,” he said. “And they know if they commit a criminal act on school property, there is a double consequence.” He said he can always tell when kids don’t have a
positive role model at home watching out for them. “It’s really sad because they don’t stay in school very long. They usually don’t eat breakfast and oftentimes, live in a car because they’ve been kicked out of the house,” Corcoran said. “But when or if they do stay in school, it’s a safe environment and we can keep an eye on them.” Corcoran said he wants all kids to be successful and he’s hoping that talking with students on a daily basis will make a positive impression on them and will allow them a better opportunity to make good decisions at an early stage in life that will help them to lead productive lives as adults. He said the SROs have something in common with every parent in Othello. “My job is to protect their children while they are in school,” he said. “This is a sacred responsibility and I really enjoy it. It is easy to come to work and it’s important to keep kids in a safe learning environment.” For the rest of this article, visit othellooutlook. com/?p=259
A rude awakening awaits repeat offenders By Bob Kirkpatrick Staff writer
Part four of a four-part series examining gang-related activity in our community. The battle to reduce gang activities and juvenile crime in Othello is never ending. But over the years, Dave Gowan and his staff at Juvenile Services have come to know three ways to combat the problems: prevention, intervention and suppression. For the rest of this awardwinning series, including an in-depth interview with a former gang member, visit othellooutlook.com/?p=257
Published on May 7, 2010