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  • 1. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 1 of 8 THIS VERSION OF THE SITE IS NO LONGER UPDATED, PL EASE CLICK HERE: SCHOOL SAFETY HELP NEW -- HOW TO CONSOL IDATE SCHOOL LOANS      Home S tu d e n ts P are n ts Sc h ools D ire c tory Books   Sc hool Safety » Safe ty Tips & Articles Need A Background Check? $1.95 Special Summer Offer Lowest » He lpfu l Books Price On the Net or its Free » Safe ty & Se cu rity Dire ctory Criminal History Record Check Find more sources/options for what your looking for Sch ool Gangs Com m on Questions Abou t Gangs in Schools Alth ough you th gangs h ave e xiste d in th e cities of th e Unite d State s alm ost as lon g as th e n ation itself, tren ds du rin g th e last two decades h ave alarm ed sch ool and com m u n ity officials. Gangs, n ow m ore violen t th an e ver, are spre adin g to n ew location s. Warn s Clare n ce Te rh un e , director of th e California You th Au th ority, "th e proble m can eru pt an ywh e re at alm ost any tim e" (Kay McKin ne y 1988). • Wh at is a gang? • Wh y do gan gs form ? • Wh ere are gangs a proble m and h ow do th ey spread? • How can school officals figh t gang activity? 9/22/2010
  • 2. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 2 of 8 • How can schools an d com m u n ites jointly figh t gan gs? WHAT IS A GANG? Gan gs vary trem e ndou sly in com position an d activities. Irvin g Spe rge l (1989) su gge sts th e followin g workin g defin ition : "ju ven ile an d you ng adu lts associating togeth er for seriou s, e specially violen t, crim inal be havior with spe cial concern s for tu rf." Tu rf can sign ify the con trol of a ph ysical territory, a crim in al en terprise, or both. Defen se of turf can lead to e xtrem e violen ce. As Captain Raym ond Gott of th e Los Ange les Sh eriffs Office says, sim ply "we arin g th e wron g color in a certain n eighborh ood can ge t you kille d" (McKinn e y). Tu rf line s are n orm ally drawn in the n eigh borh oods, bu t gan g rivalrie s also h ave a devastatin g im pact on sch ools. Ofte n, e ven non -gan g m e m bers begin bringin g we apons to sch ool for "prote ction " from robberies an d gang viole n ce (Cindy Tu rsm an 1989). Asian , black, Hispan ic, wh ite an d in te rracial gan gs e xist, ran gin g in size from a fe w m em be rs to th ousands. Age s ran ge from pre te en to adu lt, bu t th e average age is droppin g--from 15 in 1984, to 13 1/2 in 1987 (McKin ne y). Th e vast m ajority of gang m em be rs are m ale (Spergel). Most gan g m e m bers advertise th eir m em be rship by distinctive dress an d beh aviors, in cludin g h an dke rch iefs an d sh oe laces of spe cific colors, je welry, tattoos, jargon , an d h an d ge stu res. Th e y m ark th e ir territory an d challe nge oth er gangs with spray-pain te d graffiti or gan g sym bols. Th e Nation al Sch ool Safe ty Cen te r (NSSC 1988) provide s an e xcel-len t sum m ary of th e ch aracte ristics of diffe re n t types of gangs. WHY DO GANGS FORM? Accordin g to Larry Rawle s, de pu ty director of Ph ilade lph ias Crisis Interven tion Ne twork, gang m em bersh ip offers kids statu s, acceptan ce , and se lf- estee m th e y h ave n t fou n d e lse wh ere (De l Stove r 1986). In poore r com m u n ities, a breakdown of fam ily and com m u n ity stru ctu re s m ay le ave kids m ore receptive to gan g recru itm en t. Howeve r, gan gs can also form in afflu en t are as am ong kids wh o fee l alien ated from frien ds an d fam ilie s (Stove r). 9/22/2010
  • 3. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 3 of 8 Fin ancial gain is a powe rfu l m otive for gan g in volvem e nt, especially for im pove rish e d you th s with poor e du cation an d lack of access to de ce n t jobs (McKinn ey). Th e vast su m s of m on e y available th rou gh th e dru g trade h ave increase d th e size of gan gs, both by re cru itm en t an d by lon ger rete n tion of m em be rs. Usu ally on ly a fe w adult gan g m e m bers m ake large su m s of m one y. Aware th at cou rts tre at ju ven iles far m ore len ie n tly th an adults, th e y sh ie ld th e m selves by u sing ju ve n ile gang m em bers as e ve ryth ing from lookou ts to gang h itm en (NSSC). Dru g traffickin g m akes tradition al tu rf battle s bloodie r by providing th e m on e y for soph isticated we apon ry, and it cre ate s ne w sources of con flict as rival gangs fight ove r lu crative dru g te rritorie s (McKin ne y). WHERE ARE GANGS A PROBLEM AND HOW DO THEY SPREAD? Gan gs con tinu e to be active in large citie s wh ere th ey h ave be en lon g e stablish e d, and th ey are spre ading to su bu rbs and sm aller citie s. Pressure by police an d rivals an d th e lure of h igh er dru g profits pu sh gan gs to see k n ew te rritories (Dan Bryan t 1989). Me an wh ile, in m an y m idsize com m u nities factory closings an d busin ess failu res create u ne m ploym e n t an d pove rty, "con dition s con du cive to gan g activity" (Tu rsm an ). In som e cities, like Ch icago an d Ph ilade lph ia, gan g activity is actu ally stabilizin g or de clin in g as th e ir gangs m ove in to oth e r cities like De troit an d Milwaukee (Tu rsm an ). Gan gs flou rish in Los An ge le s, th e curren t "gan g capital of the U.S.," in spite of in cre ased com m u n ity an d police e fforts, an d h ave spread like cancer to su rrou n din g com m u nitie s (Stover). The Dru g En force m en t Agen cy h as con firm e d th e pre sen ce of m em bers of Los An gele s gan gs in forty-n in e oth e r cities across th e n ation. Chris Baca, director of Albu qu erqu e s You th De ve lopm e nt, Inc., warns oth e r m idsize citie s to react qu ickly; by the tim e Albuque rqu e ackn owledged it h ad a problem , gan gs with Los An ge le s origin s were firm ly e stablish e d (McKin n ey). Sch ool officials in Eu gen e, Oregon , aware of th e dram atic in cre ase in gan g activity in n earby Portlan d, recen tly m ade a u n ique attem pt to block its spre ad to th e ir own com m u nity. On October 2, 1989, eigh tee n - ye ar-old Robbie Robinson , accom pan ie d by two frie n ds we arin g gan g colors, en rolle d at Sou th Eu gen e High Sch ool. Adm in istrators con tacted J efferson High Sch ool 9/22/2010
  • 4. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 4 of 8 in Portlan d, Robin son s previou s h igh sch ool, and le arn ed h e h ad an exte n sive re cord of gan g activity an d h ad bee n barred from finish ing h igh school the re. On Robin sons first day of atten dan ce, a grou p of seve n additional te en s dresse d in gan g fash ion en te re d an d walke d th rou gh the h alls. On e of th e m an nou n ce d th at h e, too, plann e d to e n roll. Prin cipal Don J ackson su spe nde d Robin son . A we ek later, in th e first su ch action in the n ation , th e sch ool board sou gh t an in ju n ction in Lane Cou nty Circu it Cou rt to bar th e stu den t pe rm ane n tly from th e citys sch ools, n ot on th e basis of any specific action s, but becau se "h is m ere prese nce at th e sch ool in clothin g associate d with gan g m e m bersh ip con stitu te s a dange r to th e h ealth an d safety of stu den ts" (J e ff Wrigh t 1989). On Nove m ber 8, th e in ju nction was gran te d. Som e citizen s expresse d con ce rn abou t th e con stitution ality of th e rulin g, bu t m em be rs of th e local chapte r of th e NA ACP and of th e Com m u nity Coalition for th e Preven tion of Gangs applau de d th e action . Said J ackson , "You don t u n-gan g a com m u n ity. We m ay not be able to kee p it ou t, bu t at least we h ave to try" (pe rsonal in te rview, May 7, 1990). HOW CAN SCHOOL OFFICIALS FIGHT GANG ACTIVITY? Experts agre e th e sch ools m u st be e stablish e d as n eu tral grou n d. An yth ing relate d to gan g m em be rsh ip sh ou ld be ban n ed: weapons, violen ce , ille gal activity, gan g- iden tified cloth in g, in signia, an d ge stu res. Staff can expe ct to be te ste d con stan tly by th e su btle an d changing form s of gang sym bols. Adm inistrators m u st com m u nicate cle ar, consisten t standards of disciplin e an d en force th em . In a stu dy of Oh io gang activity, Dr. Ron ald Hu ff fou n d th at teach ers wh o backed down in confron tation s we re m ore likely to be assau lte d th an teach e rs wh o were fair bu t firm (Bryan t). Th e NSSC details a n um be r of specific conflict preve ntion strategie s. Graffiti sh ou ld be pain te d over im m ediate ly. Not on ly does this sign al th at sch ool prope rty is not th e gangs, it also discou rages rival gan gs from re spon din g with m ore graffiti, or worse, de facin g th eir rivals sym bols, wh ich can lead to retaliation an d viole n ce . 9/22/2010
  • 5. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 5 of 8 An ti-gan g policie s of th e Portlan d sch ool su perinten den t inclu ded se arch ing stude nts an d locke rs if th ere we re indication s of drugs or weapon s, an d e xpelling an d referrin g to juve nile cou rt an y stu den t fou n d to possess we apons (McKin n ey). Som e districts split u p gan gs by transferrin g disru ptive stu de nts. Th is m ay redu ce friction, bu t Spergel warns n ew proble m s som e tim es re su lt; a gan g m e m ber m ay be picked out if h e is tran sferred to a school dom inated by an oth er gan g (Stover). Sch ools m ay also offe r alte rnative edu cational program s for gang m em be rs (Rich ard Arth u r 1989). Districts u n used to gang activity m ay be reluctant to ackn owledge its appearan ce. Robe rto Rive ra, director of th e Ch icago Interven tion Ne twork, u rge s sch ool boards to en courage adm in istrators to be alert for sign s of gang activity and assu re th em th at re porting proble m s won t reflect adverse ly on th em (Stover). Pre ve n tive efforts are also im portan t. Ch icago schools offe r re cre ation al alte rnative s to gang activity by stayin g open for even ing extracu rricular activitie s (Stove r). Th e City of Param oun t, Californ ia, h as de ve lope d an an ti- gan g curricu lu m en titled "Altern atives to Gang Mem be rsh ip" (Tu rsm an). Expe rts stress th e im portan ce of startin g preven tion program s in th e e arly e le m en tary grades in order to circu m ven t gan g in flu e nce (Bryant). Spergel su ggests specifically targetin g "you th wh o give clear indication of gan g involve m en t" as opposed to th ose ide ntifie d as ge ne rally "at-risk." Som e warnin g sign s inclu de e vide nce of child abu se , beh avior an d pe rson ality ch an ges, gan g-iden tifie d dre ss, su dde n u ne xplain ed wealth , an d in cre ase d su bstan ce abuse (NSSC). HOW CAN SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES J OINTLY FIGHT GA N GS ? In form ation sh aring is vital. Milwau kee Sch ool Secu rity chie f J erry Mourn ing u rge s sch ools to ke ep abre ast of gan g rivalrie s: "You ne ed to know wh ats h appen ing in th e com m u nity. Wh at h appe ns over th e we eken d, we h an dle on Monday m orn in gs" (Stove r). In Ch icago, th e sch ool board receive s m onth ly reports on stu den t assau lts from each sch ool to give the m an ove rview of citywide tren ds (Stove r). 9/22/2010
  • 6. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 6 of 8 Police expe rtise can be ne fit sch ools. In Ch icago, police h ave train ed 6,000 teach ers to iden tify gan g be h aviors. Milwau ke e sch ool adm in istrators an d police m e et pe riodically to exch ange in form ation on gan g activities. Police can also train school staff to h an dle arm ed or viole n t you th s (Stove r). In m any com m u nities, sch ools h ave join e d law en forcem e nt, judicial, and civil au th oritie s to create coordin ated an ti-gan g program s, such as th e Ph iladelph ia Crisis In terven tion Ne twork an d th e Ch icago In te rve ntion Network. School boards in Pasaden a an d Com pton , Californ ia, h ave in vited th e Los An geles Com m u n ity You th Gang Se rvice s "to con du ct we ekly se m in ars for fou rth , fifth , an d sixth graders on th e dan gers of be com in g in volved with a stre et gan g" (Stover). Th e NSSC lists a n u m ber of su ccessful sch ool an d com m u nity program s, som e pre ven tive in n atu re . Som e tim es an ti-gan g e fforts go beyon d th e com m un ity. In 1985, Illin ois passed le gislation increasin g pen altie s for distribu tion or sale of weapon s an d dru gs with in 1,000 fee t of sch ool property. Ne w J erse y recen tly establish e d sim ilar safe -sch ool zone s (Tu rsm an ). Even com pre h en sive efforts m ay be u n able to e lim in ate gan gs. Bu t sch ool officials can take steps to control gan g activity within th eir sph ere , and th e y can m ake valu able con tribu tion s to redu cin g th e proble m in th eir com m u n itie s. RESOURCES Arth u r, Rich ard F. "How to Help Gangs Win th e Se lf- Este em Battle." SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR 46,5 (May 1989):18-20. EJ 388 730. Bryan t, Dan . "Com m u n itywide Re sponse s Cru cial for Dealin g With You th Gan gs." J UVENILE J USTICE BULLETIN (Septe m ber 1989): 1-6. (U.S. De partm e nt of J u stice). McKin ne y, Kay C. "J u ven ile Gan gs: Crim e and Drug Traffickin g." J UVENILE J USTICE BULLETIN (Se pte m ber 1988): 1-8. (U.S. Departm en t of J u stice). National Sch ool Safe ty Cen te r. "Gangs in Sch ools: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." Malibu , Californ ia: Nation al Sch ool Safety Cen te r, Pe pperdine Un ive rsity, 1988. 49 pages. ED 312 171. 9/22/2010
  • 7. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 7 of 8 Spergel, Irvin g A. You th Gan gs: Proble m and Re spon se, A Re vie w of th e Literature . Exe cu tive Sum m ary. Draft. Ch icago: Sch ool of Social Service Adm in istration , University of Ch icago, J an u ary 1989. 24 pages. Stove r, De l. "A New Bre ed of You th Gan g Is on th e Prowl an d a Bigger Th re at Th an Ever." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD J OURNA L 173,8 (Augu st 1986):19-24,35. EJ 338 808. Tu rn er, Bren da. "A Groun dswe ll Respon se to Recen t Crim e Wave." SCHOOL SAFETY (Spring 1989):15-17. EJ 398 973. Tu rsm an , Cin dy. "Safegu ardin g Sch ools Against Gan g Warfare ." SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR 46,5 (May 1989):8- 9,13-15. EJ 388 729. Wrigh t, J e ff, "Court Ban of Stu den t Re qu ested." THE REGISTER-GUARD, Nove m ber 4, 1989, Eu gen e , Oregon . Th is pu blication was prepare d with fun ding from th e Office of Edu cational Re search an d Im prove m en t, U.S. Departm en t of Edu cation , u nde r con tract No. OERI RI88062004. The ide as an d opin ion s expressed in this Dige st do not n e ce ssarily reflect th e position s or policies of OERI, ED, or th e Cle arin gh ouse . Th is Digest is in th e pu blic dom ain an d m ay be free ly reprodu ce d. More on sch ool safety: » Safe ty Tips & Articles » He lpfu l Books » Safe ty & Se cu rity Dire ctory Sponsors: Become A Police Officer Set Yourself A Degree Apart. Get Info For Summer & Fall Admissions. Like th is site ? Te ll a frie nd. Are we m issin g som eth in g? Tell us. 9/22/2010
  • 8. School Gangs - Common Questions About Gangs in Schools Page 8 of 8 Hom e | Stu den ts | Pare nts | Sch ools Spon sor Us | Site Map | Lin k to Us | Abou t Us | Con tact | Books | Directory ©2005 Keep Sc hools Safe Your sourc e for sc hool safety and sec urity information 9/22/2010