Closed campus credited with diffusing student violence

By Mike Price

Movies fictionalize it. News reports bring its disturbing reality into our living rooms. But is campus violence a problem that plagues high school students in the Kyrene Corridor?

Nationally, reports of death and injury have brought new awareness to the issue of violence in schools in the past few years.

Three years ago, events hit close to home when the Devil Dogs, a gang primarily made up of Mesa youths, brutally assaulted a student and left him for dead. It’s hard to ignore the evidence that violence among students is a problem.

Corona del Sol High School, however, appears to be one school that has not been subjected to the barrage of violent crime.

In fact, suggests school Registrar Lydia Denne, violence is almost a “non-issue” at Corona.

“It seems to me we are a top-notch school,” Denne said. “Our kids feel safe here.”

According to Denne, of the 16 reported physical fights that occurred at Corona in the past year, only four were considered battery.

None required hospitalization nor medical attention. This number is down from the previous year, which recorded 32 reports of fighting, though Denne says the previous year also included verbal as well as physical confrontations.

Denne credits Corona’s closed campus with being a significant factor in minimizing violence.

“When the campus is closed, students can’t go off campus to start things,” Assistant Principal of Activities Mark Duplissis said.

“When we closed the campus, that really calmed things down,” Denne said.

“There are also less drug and alcohol problems as a result. Other schools in the district are starting to catch on, too.”

Denne said she noticed a marked decline in disciplinary problems as soon as the campus was closed six years ago.

Duplissis also pointed out several other procedures that are in place to help prevent student violence.

“We have top-notch security here,” he said.

In addition to security, Duplissis said Corona shortened its lunch periods, leaving kids less dead time to get in trouble. Finally, Denne praised communication between the teaching staff and security guards.

“If two kids were having words in a class, a teacher could contact a security guard and tell them it might be a good idea if they went and had a talk with the students,” Denne said.

According to Laurel Yanof, who graduated in May from Corona, most students feel safe on campus.

“I never once felt threatened or experienced any kind of violence,” Yanof said.

“You hear about the occasional fight in the hallway, but I never saw one. I think it’s just the caliber of the surrounding neighborhood that makes Corona a safe environment.”

Laurel’s dad, Arnold, also felt like Corona was a safe place for his daughter to attend school.

“Despite school violence in the news, I suspect the average school is actually safer than the average home, the car, the streets during darkness hours, the mall, or other possible venues she might be in,” said Arnold.

“And, probably, Corona is safer than the average school. But it is important to be vigilant so as to keep safe in today's world.”

As far as how Corona rates in comparison to other schools throughout the nation, there appear to be far less fights occurring at Corona.

According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety report published in 2000, 14 percent of students interviewed admitted to having been in a fight on campus.

In comparison, the 16 students at Corona disciplined for fighting make up less than a percent of students.

Said Duplisis:

“I’ve been at two other schools as a teacher and an administrator, and I feel that we are top notch.”