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Responding to Gangs in the School Setting

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This bulletin presents an overview of action steps that schools can take in preventing, intervening in, and suppressing violent gang activity, and it provides guidance in developing crisis response plans that address violence in schools, including, but not limited to, gang activity.
Given that many school administrators do not recognize gang activity in the school context or prefer not to acknowledge the gang problem because it hurts the school’s image, it is important that school administrators and staff be trained in the signs of gang activity in the school. Further, school administrators must develop the attitude that there is no shame in acknowledging a gang problem in their schools. Conducting a comprehensive assessment of gang activity in and around the school is necessary in responding effectively to youth gangs. This article identifies and briefly discusses the factors that should be included in such an assessment. In mounting a strategy to prevent school-based gang activity, school administrators should create a diverse task force composed of administrators, staff members, students, law enforcement personnel, and other agencies/businesses. The task force should be responsible for assessing the impact gangs have on the school, identifying gangs in the local neighborhood, and developing strategies for eliminating gang-related behaviors on the school campus. Some school-wide gang prevention strategies are suggested. This is followed by an overview of school-based gang intervention, which involves two separate approaches: a “whole-school” approach that sets strict standards for student behavior and an individual gang intervention that works with gang-involved youth to steer them away from a gang. Other major topics addressed in this article are the development of team-based information relevant to gang activity and school responses; policies and procedures for preventing gang incidents; zero-tolerance gang policies; safety warnings for school staff; and responding to worst-case scenarios. Listings of references and additional resources and appended information on gang identifiers in school, “Do’s and Don’ts for School Personnel,” and the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Date Created: July 16, 2014