in schools is a growing problem. The proliferation of street gangs appears to parallel this growth of violence. Names like
FOLK, CRIPS, VICE
LORDS, and others evoke images of young people with tattoos and guns. Police departments have squads dedicated to tracking gang activity.
Training programs are being conducted to familiarize teachers with gang symbols and hand signs. The irony is that the kids know. Adults, especially teachers and other authority figures, are not allowed into their world. In fact, a separate dialect has emerged to further this cause. "Strapped," "jumped in," "capped," and many other expressions are designed to keep gang land separated from the adult world.
Secrecy is the life blood of street gangs. This plays well with all students who see life as "us versus them." There is a romantic mystique about a group that defies the establishment and has a core value built around violence. This mystique draws and repels at the same time. It encourages those who are the closest, to keep the secrets they know even when they are not part of the gang itself. Penetrating and understanding gang mentality is one of the greatest challenges facing society in general and our schools specifically.
This article provides general guidelines for recognition and intervention. Unless there is a problem with a specific gang, this should suffice for establishing a proactive program.
There are two basic types of gangs, CITY and URBAN/RURAL.
CITY gangs are usually formed based on territory. That is, everyone living in a given neighborhood belongs to the gang that is identified with that area, "turf," or "hood." Geographically,
URBAN/RURAL gang members come from a much larger area and their "turf" is not held in the same importance. In a city setting, when a few gang members are identified, others who live in the same area are likely to be members of the same gang. In rural areas, gang members may travel several miles to be with fellow members. In either setting, gang members will tend to associate with each other to the exclusion of non-members.
Association is, therefore, a prime indicator of gang involvement.
The next indicators are grouped together because they should be used in conjunction with each other. They are
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