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An overview of the gangs in schools and the impact on students and their education

Burnett, Gary - Walz, Garry Source: Gangs in the Schools. Gang culture among young people, in itself, is nothing new. Indeed, youth gangs have been a major part of the urban cultural landscape since at least the 1830s, when Charles Dickens described Fagin's pack of young boys roaming the streets of London in "Oliver Twist. At the same time, gangs have become a growing problem in public schools, which historically have been considered "neutral turf. Although there are exceptions, gangs tend to develop along racial and ethnic lines, and are typically 90 percent male Bodinger-deUriarte, 1993.

Gang members often display their membership through distinctive styles of dress--their "colors"--and through specific activities and patterns of behavior. In addition, gangs almost universally show strong loyalty to their neighborhood, often marking out their territory with graffiti Gaustad, 1991. All of these representations can be visible in the schools.

  1. Doing field research on diverse gangs. In addition, it has been reported that less than 2 percent of all juvenile crime is gang-related Bodinger-deUriarte, 1993.
  2. ED 358 399 Boyle, K. Therefore, a particular inquiry of this study will be to explore the direct and indirect associations between gang membership and school violence behaviors in the middle school context.
  3. In a nutshell, here's what he has to say. More than one in four Hispanic youth drop out, and nearly half leave by the eighth grade.

As Gaustad 1991 points out, however, the specifics of gang style and activity can vary tremendously from gang to gang, and can even change rapidly within individual gangs.

For instance, African American gangs tend to confine their activities to their own communities, although the Bloods and the Crips, two gangs originating in Los Angeles, now have members nationwide. In contrast, Asian gangs often travel hundreds of miles from home in order to conduct their activities Bodinger-deUriarte, 1993.

  • Protective factors are those factors that either buffer the affects of risk factors or measure the factors distant from risk factors on a continuum;
  • Two students who claimed gang membership last year beat up another student;
  • Indeed, youth gangs have been a major part of the urban cultural landscape since at least the 1830s, when Charles Dickens described Fagin's pack of young boys roaming the streets of London in "Oliver Twist;
  • They are abused, neglected, and generally made to feel as though they are worthless;
  • For example, the above descriptions of gang activity appear to have conflicting conclusions.

In addition, African American and Hispanic gangs are much more likely to display their colors than are Asian gangs. Anglo gangs are often made up of white supremacists. Gangs can also vary tremendously in numbers and age ranges of members.

Understanding Youth Gangs: Resources for Schools

In addition, it has been reported that less than 2 percent of all juvenile crime is gang-related Bodinger-deUriarte, 1993. Such low numbers, however, may camouflage the impact that the presence of gangs has on a school. For one thing, they play a significant role in the widespread increase of violence in the schools; indeed, school violence has steadily increased since a 1978 National Institute of Education study, Violent Schools-Safe Schools, found that school-aged children were at a higher risk of suffering from violence in school than anywhere else cited in Gaustad, 1991.

Because gangs are, by definition, organized groups, and are often actively involved in drug and weapons trafficking, their mere presence in school can increase tensions there. It can also increase the level of violence in schools, even though gang members themselves may not be directly responsible for all of it; both gang members and non-gang members are arming themselves with increased frequency.

Students in schools with a gang presence are twice as likely to report that they fear becoming victims of violence than their peers at schools without gangs Trump, 1993.

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Moreover, a 1992 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey reports that schools with gangs are significantly more likely to have drugs available on campus than those without gangs Bodinger-deUriarte, 1993. In Gaustad's words, gangs create a "tenacious framework" within which school violence can take root and grow 1991, p.

An interview-based study by Boyle 1992 suggests that gang members see school as a necessary evil at best, and at worst as a form of incarceration. Although many gang members acknowledge the importance of the educational objectives of school, school is much more important to them as a place for gathering with fellow gang members for socializing and other more violent activities. Significantly, Boyle also found that even those gang members who had been suspended or had dropped out of school could be found on campus with their associates, effectively using the school as a gang hangout rather than as an educational institution.

Finally, gangs can spread unexpectedly from school to school as students transfer from gang-impacted schools to gang-free schools, causing an unintentional spillover of gang activity in the new school. In addition, gangs may form among groups of recent immigrants as a way of maintaining a strong ethnic identity. Understanding how gangs meet these student needs prepares schools to better respond to them. Four factors are primary in the formation of juvenile gangs William Gladden Foundation, 1992: This can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, and a desire to obtain support outside of traditional institutions.

In turn,gang membership affords youth a sense of power and control, and gang activities become an outlet for their anger. Both "willing" and "unwilling" members are drawn into gangs to feed the need for more resources and gang members. Taken together these four factors interact to produce gangs that become more powerful and ruthless as they work to maintain and expand their sway over territory and youth. Indeed, the perception of gangs as omnipotent frequently leads schools either to react harshly with overly punitive and restrictive actions or to be so intimidated that they refrain from taking any action at all.

What is needed instead is a strategy that mobilizes school and community resources to offer viable alternatives to youth gang membership. To be successful, however, a school's strategy must be built upon the above-described sociopsychological reasons for why gangs develop and attract youths; in particular, schools must find ways to address students' feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem.

A strategy that embodies an understanding of "gang psychology" increases the probability that gangs will be less able to attract new members and retain old members. Mentoring, conflict resolution programs, and tutoring can be particularly effective. Present information in a culturally sensitive way, and in a variety of languages, to reflect the diversity of the community. This can help school officials assess the existence of gangs in the neighborhood, and anticipate and prevent their formation in the school.

Though the above steps offer no magical solution for eliminating gangs, they offer valuable interventions that may make gangs appear less attractive and prepare individual students to more effectively resist gang pressure to join with them.

  • All of these representations can be visible in the schools;
  • He believes some of these frustrated children will act out by turning the middle-class values upside down;
  • Such low numbers, however, may camouflage the impact that the presence of gangs has on a school.

ED 358 204 Bodinger-deUriarte, C. Membership in violent gangs fed by suspicion, deterred through respect.

Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory. ED 358 399 Boyle, K. School's a rough place: Youth gangs, drug users, and family life in Los Angeles. ED 360 435 Gaustad, J. Schools respond to gangs and violence. Oregon School Study Council. ED 337 909 Trump, K. Youth gangs and schools: The need for intervention and prevention strategies.

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