It’s that time of year again when children are back in school. With school comes education, sporting events, club activities, and social events such as homecoming. However, with school also comes the possibility of kids recruiting for gangs. According to the National Gang Center’s National Youth Gang Survey of 2009, the number of jurisdictions with gang problems and the number of gangs increased more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2009, with both indicators recording a 5 percent increase in more recent years (www.nationalgangcenter.gov, June 2011). It is important for school resource officers, school administrators, and educators to work cohesively with law enforcement personnel, parents, and youth to create an atmosphere where gang recruitment and activity is unacceptable and unwelcomed and has clear adverse consequences.
There are many ways for schools to integrate gang prevention education and create a positive alternative to gangs.
- Educate young people and parents on the dangers and consequences of gang involvement to include knowing the signs of gang activity, understanding gang characteristics, and ensuring safety when reporting gang activity on school grounds.
- If your school has a dress code, make sure it prohibits any clothing or symbols that suggest gang membership. And enforce it.
- Make sure your school is declared a safety zone and designated as a drug-free and gun-free site. Criminal violations within these zones are serious and carry stiff fines and penalties.
- Engage students in positive activities and encourage club membership, afterschool activities, community service, or service-learning projects. By allowing students to select, plan, and execute a project that addresses a concern or issue within their school or community, they gain empowerment over the issue and the feeling that their ideas are valued and make a difference.
Schools should be safe havens where children come and learn. Through positive partnerships, open communication, and encouragement, we can ensure that this school year is a successful one for us all.