January 5, 2015 by HCDE-Texas
Gang activity is an ongoing problem – recent statistics show an increased presence in suburban communities. Unfortunately, gang activity doesn’t stop at the school door. The presence of gangs in schools comprises the safety, well-being and academic progress of all students. Gang members encounter each other at school during class changes, in the lunch room, during school assemblies and at other school events, allowing many opportunities for conflicts to occur between rival gangs. Because of the potential for violent gang interactions during the school day, educators must formulate an aggressive, proactive approach to keep gang activity at a minimum on campus.
Individuals may join a gang for various reasons, including protection, status, security, friendship, family, economic profit, substance abuse influences, etc. Members cross all socio-economic backgrounds, regardless of age, gender, race, economic status and academic achievement.
What can educators do to deter gang activity at school?
• Create a positive classroom environment. The classroom must be a peaceful space. Teachers must maintain vigilance over the slightest signs of challenges between students.
• Develop rapport with gang-involved students. Rapport is critical in both prevention and intervention. Do not be afraid to talk to them about their aspirations and hopes, or about informal matters such as favorite sports teams. These discussions show students that teachers do care for them, and facilitate rapport and bonding.
• School staff should remain accessible to students during school hours. Teachers, coaches and counselors are an important resource for students who may lack other positive role models and support.
• Do not allow gang-type graffiti to be displayed on notebooks, papers, homework or school property. If graffiti is discovered, it should be reported to a school administrator, documented, shared with local law enforcement and removed immediately.
• Establish simple and clear rules for behavior in the classroom. List the rules and consequences for breaking them. Teachers must enforce the rules consistently. When disciplining gang-involved students, teachers should ask them quietly to remain after class to discuss rule violation. Ensure that the gang-involved student does not have his associates with him during discussions.
• Monitor social media and electronic media. Gang members want to put information out there openly. If you suspect something wrong, screen capture it and send it to administration.
Gangs are a community problem. As a part of the community, schools must take proactive steps to control the risk of gang activity spilling into the school. Schools must set firm, clear policies regarding gang behavior and allow staff to take a strong, unified stand against gang activity.
For a list of local and national school resources on gangs, visit Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools website.
What is your campus doing to minimize gang activity in school? Let us know in the comments below.
Harris County Sheriff’s Office
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Harris County Department of Education’s Communications and Public Information team helps promote the efforts of HCDE’s programs and services to the education community. Our close-knit, award-winning team works together on creative strategies to effectively support the organization. We’re always looking to share great stories and on occasion contribute to the HCDE blog, School Bell.