Ensuring student safety prompts changes to Lynnwood Rec Center’s Nightwaves teen dance/swim night

In response to concerns from parents about the students’ safety, the Lynnwood Recreation Center has taken steps to improve security at the recreation center’s Nightwaves swim/dance event. The event for middle school students had previously come under scrutiny after two separate instances last year led to police involvement.

For more than a decade, the Lynnwood Recreation Center has hosted the quarterly event for middle school students in the Edmonds School District and surrounding districts. Nightwaves averages 450 students per event to enjoy music, food, dancing, games and swimming in both of the recreation center pools.

However, some parents were concerned about the event’s safety when last year’s September and November events ended in fights between students from the Edmonds School District and other districts, said recreation coordinator Jon Bullard. The fights occurred outside of the recreation center with both ending in a high response from the Lynnwood Police Department. The increased police presence was not — as some believed — to stop fighting, but in fact to help navigate heavy traffic from parents picking up their kids, Bullard said.

“I think it was a little disconcerting for parents when all of a sudden there’s all these red lights at the end of the night, but the end result was two boys fighting,” he said.

When the police were called for backup at Nightwaves, the responding officers were not told the reason for assistance, resulting in several nearby officers arriving. Though the response was higher than necessary for two boys fighting, Bullard said he was grateful to know officers were ready.

“In the event there was a serious issue, they were here in 25 seconds,” he said. “That shows me we’re in a very safe spot.”

Since then, Bullard has met with the school district staff and the principals of Brier Terrace, Alderwood, Meadowdale and College Place middle schools to see what could be done to prevent further issues at Nightwaves. One of the solutions was to make Nightwaves exclusive to students from the Edmonds School District.

“One area where we saw conflict was students in Edmonds School District having conflicts with students outside of Edmonds School District that were attending,” he said.

Bullard said organizers have not decided whether the new Edmonds-School-District-only policy for Nightwaves will remain in effect permanently. Non-Edmonds School District students who attended Nightwaves accounted for 20 percent of attendees, Bullard said.

Taking the new policy a step further, Bullard said that to attend Nightwaves students must also be in good standing with the school before attending. Students who are currently suspended are not allowed to attend.

“We want to create Nightwaves as a reward for them,” he said.

Students who want to attend Nightwaves must also have a current middle school ID card or log into their online Skyward curriculum account to verify their enrollment. The Skyward account will also show whether a student is currently suspended. School ID cards were not always required and if a student arrived without a school ID card, staff would document their name, school information and parents’ contact information. Since enforcing the new school ID requirement, Bullard said it has helped eliminate behavioral issues.

“If I cross referenced the kids I had to talk to that night for whatever behavioral issues and looked at the list of kids who didn’t have IDs, those lists were coinciding,” he said.

After receiving initial criticism for the new school ID requirement, the principals of the school district’s four middle schools agreed students should be able to access their Skyward account online.

The recreation center has also added another on-site police officer to facilitate bag checks at the door and uses metal detectors on students before they can enter the event. This was in response to rumors of students bringing vape pens to the event and, in the instance of the Nightwaves in November, a gun. Rumors of a gun were investigated by Lynnwood police and determined to be false, Bullard said.

“It was a little bit of an adjustment, because it took us longer to get everybody in, but we didn’t catch one single item that wasn’t supposed to come in,” he said.

In addition to making Nightwaves a safer place for students, Bullard said he wants to make it more inclusive. The upcoming Nightwaves will host its first “Magic: The Gathering” tournament and include a Pop-A-Shot basketball game. By adding more games, Bullard said he hopes to draw more students who might not previously have felt welcome.

“We’re trying to go above and beyond to create a welcoming space for everybody,” Bullard said. “I don’t want people to feel that it’s not their scene or their spot.”

The next Nightwaves event is scheduled for Saturday, March 23 from 8-11 p.m. at the Lynnwood Recreation Center, 18900 44th Ave. W., Lynnwood. The event costs $5.

For more information or to provide feedback, contact Jon Bullard at jbullard@lynnwoodwa.gov

–Story by Cody Sexton

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