This overview of the management of gangs in schools discusses why youth join gangs, gang prevention strategies in a school context, and tips for school police officers in investigating gang activities in school.
Reasons cited by experts as to why youth join gangs include for love, money, respect, structure, belonging, identity, and recognition. Mike Rudinski, a school resource officer (SRO) with the Hyattsville City Police Department (Maryland), believes that the primary reason youth join gangs is for protection against bullying. Students come from diverse neighborhoods, communities, or countries. They are often bullied because of race, material possessions, and language differences. Being isolated or different from other students can lead to being bullied. Joining a gang not only provides a group identity but also a sense of power that instills fear in fellow students. Actions by SROs and other school staff can discourage gang activity in the school. This discussion suggests banning all items and symbols usually associated with gang activity and affirmation, such as weapons; violence; illegal behavior; and gang-associated clothing, insignias, and gestures. Other gang-prevention suggestions are to promulgate clear and consistent standards for all students; control all school entrances and monitor activities on school grounds; be alert to the presence of strangers and question their reason for being on school grounds; high visibility of adults and authority figures; and a reduction in the time between classes. Other suggestions pertain to support for after-school and weekend extracurricular activities, cooperation with community gang intervention programs, consultation with parents when gang activity is suspected; and attention to school areas and times when gang activity is likely. Suggestions for SRO gang-related investigations pertain to knowledge of gangs, their symbols, and activities; familiarity with extraction of photos and videos from cell phones; and the cultivation of respect, courtesy, and listening in interaction with students, which will facilitate information sharing.
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Reprinted from TechBeat, Winter 2012