Gangs are Compromising School Safety

Gang issues have been issues within urban, suburban, and rural schools for a very long time and, unfortunately, many communities are seeing an upswing in school and community-based gang activity all across America. What some may not realize is that such activity can escalate very fast and educators, as well as other school employees, need to become more knowledgeable about gang activity in schools in order to prevent violence within schools, stop existing violence, and hand a crisis if it hits.

What are Gangs?

Gangs are a group of adolescents and/or young adults who engage in illegal activity in most cases. These gangs are usually violent because they have skirmishes with other gangs. In other words, there is always a rival.

Kids tend to join gangs because they want to establish a feeling of power, status, friendship, or family. There may be substance abuse or economic profit involved. A child does not necessarily have to come from a low income background to join a gang. All they have to be is influential and desire something that the gang is promising to them.

How to Recognize Gangs

It is important for school employees to be able to recognize gangs in order to try and stop gang activity and to be aware of who to look out for. Here are some ways to recognize gangs:

  • Graffiti on notebooks that displays what could be gang symbols
  • Tattoos of symbols on arms, legs, and even the face
  • Gang poems, symbols, or signs on notebooks or displayed in class
  • Suspicious injuries that include cuts and bruises
  • Sudden behavior changes
  • Secret meetings with other students similar in appearance (look for haircuts, specific brands of clothing, and other similarities)
  • Secret hand signals and handshakes

Dangers of Gangs

Gangs that are unaddressed within schools can become excessively violent. They can recruit new individuals and engage in initiation activities that can be harmful, can bring weapons to school, can get into gang fights on school property during school hours and put other students at risk, they can sell drugs and do drugs, and they can ultimately resort to violence if they do not get their way with another student.

Nevertheless, any time a gang member is approached, they will deny that they are a part of a gang because they thrive on anonymity. Don’t expect a gang member to say, “Yes, I am a part of a gang, what’s it to you?” or any other such statement. You can see all of the signs and that student will deny their affiliation. However, it is important to address the suspicion than wait until violence erupts on school grounds. Innocent students could be hurt.