Gang Prevention

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					                                                                                                     STUDENT COUNSELING

Gang Prevention
The third of a three-part series on school violence
describes a gang-prevention program that uses
community and school resources to keep students
in school and out of gangs.

By Rosario C. Pesce and James D. Wilczynski

         outh gangs present a growing          nexus of the problem is likely to be                The presence of gangs stro n g l y
         challenge in terms of school          community-based, not school-based,            i n c reases the likelihood of violence,
         safety and violence prevention.       and the controlling force of the gang         guns, and drugs on campus. A study
Once a problem only in the largest in-         may be potentially difficult to identify      s h ows that reports of victimization
ner cities, youth gangs have branched          or remediate.                                 more than doubled for schools with
out to cities and suburban communities                                                       a gang presence compared to schools
across the country, expanding into             The Lure and Cost of Gangs                    without one (8% versus 3%) (Chandler
schools along the way. A re p o rt by the      Re s e a rch suggests that youth join gangs   et al., 1998). Students invo l ved in
U.S. Department of Education and the           to feel accepted, attain status, and          gangs are more likely to be invo l ve d
Department of Justice found that 37%           increase their self-esteem (Stover, 1986).    in criminal activities; have academic
of students surveyed in 1995 indicated         Students who are more vulnerable to           difficulties; drop out; be suspended,
that there was a gang presence in their        the lure of gangs may feel disenfran-         expelled, or arrested; and become
schools, a rate nearly double that             chised or threatened, have poor school        victims of violence.
re p o rted in 1989 (Chandler, Chapman,        connection, have troubled family rela-
Rand, & Taylor, 1998).                         tionships, have siblings or friends who       An Alternative
     Unlike individual troubled students       are in gangs, or be looking for fun and       to Suspension
and sporadic fights, gangs are organ-          excitement. Even schools with a vio-          Too often a school’s response to gang-
ized, predatory, and usually directed          lence prevention program in place can         related offenses is suspension or
by older youth or adults outside of            face gang issues. Certain factors can         expulsion. These approaches may be
school. Most seek to expand their              facilitate a gang presence, howe ver,         necessary for serious violent behavior
power and wealth through illegal activ-        including an impersonal, alienating           but are generally ineffective for many
ities, intimidation, and recruitment.                   nment; a prevalence of bullying;
                                               e n v i ro                                    infractions and tend to increase future
Frequently, more than one gang is              a lack of trust between adults and stu-       problems rather than decrease targeted
involved, operating either within or           dents; a location that is in or near a        behaviors. Suspension and expulsion
between schools and in the communi-            gang neighborhood; and a lack of coor-        neither address the underlying cause of
ty. This complicates the prevention            dination with local law enforcement           the problem nor teach students alter-
and intervention process because the           and community service organizations.          native strategies and decision-making
                                                                                             skills. Moreover, the suspended or
 Rosario C. Pesce is a school psychologist and content area coordinator for support serv-    expelled student is unsupervised and
 ice personnel for the J. S. Mo rton High School Dist. #201 in Cicero, IL. James D.          on the street and is likely to fall further
 Wlczynski is a school psychologist for Evanston Township (IL) High School Dist.             behind in school. However, research
 #202.                                                                                       shows that schools that attempt to
                                                                                             keep students in school and improve
 Student Counseling 101 is produced in collaboration with the National Association of        achievement improve school safety as
 School Ps ychologists. This article was adapted from a handout published in Helping         compared to those that suspend or
 Children at Home and School II: Handouts for Families and Educators (NASP,                  expel students (Osher, Sandler, &
 2004). Student Counseling 101 articles and related HCHS II handouts can be dow n-           Nelson 2001).
 loaded from
                                                                                                               PL   NOVEMBER      2005     11

                                                                                                    m o re positive school environment and
       Points to Consider                                                                           reducing incidents of victimization and
                                                                                                    students’ subsequent desire to seek pro-
       H e re are some key points to consider when developing programs that are aimed
                                                                                                    tection from the gang against the bully
       at gang prevention in schools:
                                                                                                    (Howell, 2000).
                                                                                                        Secondary prevention programs are
       ■   D o n ’t be afraid to ask, “Do we have a gang problem in our school?” A crisis
                                                                                                    aimed at students who are identified as
           does not have to occur before putting something in place.
                                                                                                    at-risk for violence (Osher et al., 2001).
                                                                                                    One such program, CASASTART
       ■   Develop a working relationship with local law enforcement agencies. Police
                                                                                                    (Striving Together to Achieve Rew a rding
           departments usually can provide re s o u rc to help schools determine the
                                                                                                    To m o r rows), is geared toward children
           extent of the local gang presence and can help parents and staff members
                                                                                                    between the ages of 11 and 13 who
           understand gang psychology. Basic understanding of signs, colors, clothing
                                                                                                    come from “distressed” neighborhoods
           p a t t e rns, and so forth is important to minimize gang re p resentation on
                                                                                                    (Center for the Study and Prevention
                                                                                                    of Violence, 1999; Ha r rell, Cavanagh,
                                                                                                    & Sridharan, 1998). It is a multicon-
       ■   Conduct a needs assessment specifically geared toward gangs as part of your
                                                                                                    textual program that includes case
           school safety team's efforts. Involve community partners throughout the
                                                                                                    management services, juvenile justice
           assessment and planning. Identify and coordinate with cultural or faith leaders
                                                                                                    intervention, family services, mentor-
           in the community about youth in gangs. If law enforcement agencies are not
                                                                                                    ing, and community policing.
           part of the team yet, this would be an excellent opportunity to include them.
                                                                                                        Te rt i a ry interventions are intended
                                                                                                    for students who have engaged in some
       ■   Use in-school re s o u rces. Many staff members—such as deans of discipline,
                                                                                                    type of violent of behavior. The most-
           assistant principals, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and security
                                                                                                    effective tertiary programs involve indi-
           staff members—may have already worked with gang-involved youth in one
                                                                                                    vidual behavioral and skills-building
           way or another. Use their experience in helping to develop, implement, and
                                                                                                    strategies, a strong family therapy
           evaluate programming.
                                                                                                    component, and wraparound serv i c e s
                                                                                                    that address multiple needs (U.S.
       ■   Data should drive decision making. Review what has worked and what has
                                                                                                    De p a rtment of Health and Human
           not. Obtain input from multiple sources in and outside of school. Use
                                                                                                    Se rvices, 2001). Schools can play an
           evidence-based interventions. Be flexible so you can make changes on the
                                                                                                    i m p o rtant role in all of these areas,
           basis of results. Ensure that the interventions are culturally sensitive to the
                                                                                                    including helping coordinate serv i c e s
           needs of the families your school serves.
                                                                                                    with other community agencies.

                                                                                                    Moving From Theory
     Gang Prevention in Schools                       gang colors, dress codes, symbols, and        to Practice
     Ef f e c t i ve gang prevention should be        the like. In addition, strategies should be   The GAIN (Gang Avoidance Initiative
     part of a larger school context that fos-        tailored to reflect the needs and charac-     Now) program is an example of a tert i-
     ters a safe and healthy learning environ-        ter of the school and the community,          a ry alternative-to-suspension program
     ment and should be closely integrated            including sensitivity to the language and     for first-time in-school gang offenders.
     with community programs. Specifically,           culture of the students being served.         We participated in developing and
     school-based programs need to have at                                                          implementing the program in response
     least three important types of strategies:       Three Tiers of Opportunity                    to a gang-related incident in October
     in-school safety and control procedures,         Pr i m a ry prevention programs involve all   1996 in which a former student shot a
     in-school enrichment procedures that             aspects of the school (e.g., curriculum,      current student at a bus stop after
     make school more meaningful and re-              discipline, and adult and student atti-       school. The Chicago suburban high
     duce feelings of alienation, and formal          tudes) and develop and promote appro-         school district invo l ved is one of
     links to community-based serv i c e s            priate behavior and healthy emotional         Illinois’ larger districts that, at the time,
     (Goldstein & Kodluboy, 1998).                    adjustment within the entire student          e n rolled close to 7,000 students on two
          Ef f o rts should be coordinated by the     body (Osher et al., 2001). Antibullying       campuses, over 38% of whom qualified
     school safety team, and staff members            p rograms are an example of a primary         for free and reduced-price school lunch-
     should be trained to recognize the signs         pre vention program that can help             es. The program was funded in part
     of gang involvement as well as local             reduce gang participation by creating a       through a Title IV, Safe and Drug Free

12   PL NOVEMBER 2005
Schools and Communities Grant. It is           • Getting out                                  lesson even when they are not teaching.
now in its ninth year and has prove n          • Developing a life plan.                      This creates a sense of continuity for
e f f e c t i veat improving outcomes for          The program also includes two field        the students. Former gang members
p a rticipating students.                      trips: one off-campus trip to a rehabili-      assist in teaching two lessons and go on
       Community involvement and               tation hospital and another in-school          both field trips. GAIN classes are like
needs assessment. In response to a             presentation by correctional officers and      any other as far as rules and expecta-
community meeting following the                prisoners from a federal correctional          tions, are limited to 15 students each
shooting, the school board developed a         institution. The field trips and lessons       semester, and meet once a week during
safe school plan that called for the for-      help illustrate the consequences of con-       the school day for nine weeks. The low
mation of a violence prevention task-          tinued gang-related behavior and the           student-teacher ratio encourages sub-
f o rce that met monthly and included all      benefits of dropping out of a gang.            stantive discussion and fosters re l a t i o n-
major stakeholders in the community.           Students learn problem-solving and             ship building and eventual trust.
The group was cochaired by the princi-         relationship-building skills as well as            Graduation. To support students’
pal and the city mayor and included            how to leave a gang behind. Staff mem-         sense of accomplishment for complet-
representatives from state and local law       bers do not try to force students to           ing the program, the school sponsors a
e n f o rcement agencies; feeder school dis-   leave their gangs but convey that they         graduation ceremony that is hosted by
tricts; county public health, mental           respect students’ right to make that           a community partner. Community
health, and youth services; parks and          decision for themselves in due time.           agencies that are committed to work-
recreation services; students and parents;     They also help students develop a life         ing with families and gang issues are
and local business. The taskforce con-         plan to give them goals outside of gang        invited to speak about their services
ducted a needs assessment to determine         involvement.                                   during the brief ceremony, which
the availability of re l e vant community          Team-teaching appro a c h . Classes        includes interpreters for non-English
s e rvices and where the major gaps exist-     are taught by one of several adults—           speaking families. Mingling time is
ed. Members agreed to develop an alter-        such as school-based police officers,          built into the event for informal net-
native to suspension program for first-        support service personnel, and coun-           working between families and the
time in-school gang offenders.                 selors—who are present for eve ry              agencies.
       Developing the program. An inter-
disciplinary subgroup led by the school          Resources
psychologist developed a curriculum
that focused on building skills and
                                                 Drug Prevention and School Safety Program Coordinators
developing trust and connection among
                                                 w w w. k 1 2 c o o
students and adults. The program
                                                 This Web site contains 15 free online training modules dealing with school safety
served as an alternative to suspension
                                                 and violence prevention for school personnel, including a module on gang pre v e n-
for such activities as fighting, throwing
                                                 tion titled “Youth Gangs: Going Beyond the Myths to Address a Critical Pro b l e m ”
gang signs, and marking school or per-
sonal pro p e rty with gang symbols; it
was not a substitute for expulsion for
serious violations. Eligible students and        Youth Gang Programs and Strategies
their parents could opt to be part of the        w w w. n c j
p rogram after signing a contract with           Published by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, this
the dean of discipline.                          document summarizes more than 50 years of gang program evaluations as well as
       The GAIN curriculum. The origi-           information concerning gangs, interventions, and specific school-based pro g r a m s
nal five lesson plans expanded to nine           and contact information.
lessons with input from students who
went through the first year of the pro-
gram. Topics include:
                                                 w w w. n c j
• Getting off to a good start
                                                 This biweekly electronic newsletter is created by the National Criminal Justice
• Second chances
                                                 Reference System (NCJRS) and is administered by the U.S. Department of
• Drugs, alcohol, and violence
                                                 Justice. JUSTINFO highlights information from NCJRS-sponsoring agencies
• Juvenile law and dru g s
                                                 and includes funding and grant information that is available for specific target
• Juvenile law and bodily injury
• Conflict resolution
• Family and peers

                                                                                                                  PL   NOVEMBER        2005     13

        Moving on. GAIN graduates are                         long as they wish throughout their                with the life plan he or she deve l-
     invited to attend a weekly “after-                       school care e r. In addition, when                oped during the class.
     care” group during the school day                        funds allow for it, GAIN graduates                    Evaluation and outcomes.
     one period a week. This group is lead                    are paired through a mentoring pro-               Formative evaluation was used in
     by the GAIN facilitators, usually                        gram with school staff members and                the first few years of the program to
     school support service personnel, and                    meet weekly inside of school to                   make modifications to the lessons by
     students can remain members for as                       monitor how the student is doing                  asking students what they learned fol-
                                                                                                                l owing each weekly lesson. Q a l i t a t i ve
       Signs of Gang Involvement                                                                                evaluation is done on an ongoing
                                                                                                                basis through exit interviews at the
       The Kansas City, MO, Department Gang Squad has provided the following list of                            end of each nine-week session. The
       w a rning signs of gang membership:                                                                      interview includes questions re g a rd-
       ■   Changes in the child's behavior
                                                                                                                ing expectations about the pro g r a m ,
                                                                                                                comments about continued contact
       ■   Not associating with long-time friends and being secretive about new friends and                     with gangs, views on who students
           activities                                                                                           can approach about gang issues,
       ■   Changes in hair or dress style or having a group of friends who have the same                        ideas for future topics, and a rating
           hair or dress style                                                                                  of each lesson.
                                                                                                                    Qu a n t i t a t i ve evaluation occurs
       ■   Changes in normal routines with new friends, such as not coming home after                           regularly through experimental and
           school or staying out late at night with no explanation                                              control comparison studies that look
       ■   Suspected drug or alcohol use, including inhalants                                                   at staying in school, getting good
                                                                                                                grades, and exhibiting positive behav-
       ■   Unexplained material possessions, such as expensive clothing, jewelry, or money                      ior. GAIN graduates are compare d
       ■   The presence of firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons                                        with like offenders who did not par-
                                                                                                                ticipate in the program. Results fro m
       ■   Change in attitude about school, church, or other normal activities                                  the three studies conducted thus far
       ■   Discipline problems at school, church, or attended functions                                         consistently show that GAIN gradu-
                                                                                                                ates stay in school and graduate at
       ■   Lower grades at school or skipping school                                                            higher rates than students in the
       ■   Change in behavior at home—increases in confrontational behavior, such as                            control group of gang offenders
           talking back, verbal abuse, name calling, and a disrespect for parental authority                    who did not participate.
       ■   A new fear of police                                                                                 Context Is Key
       ■   Phone threats to the family from rival gangs (or unknown callers) directed against                   Essential to the success of gang
           your child                                                                                           prevention and intervention is that it
                                                                                                                is an integral part of a comprehensive
       ■   Photographs of the child and others displaying gang hand signs, weapons, cash,
                                                                                                                plan that is aimed at preventing vio-
           drugs, or gang-type clothing
                                                                                                                lence and fostering a safe learning
       ■   Graffiti on or around the child’s locker or at home, including drawings and                          environment for all students. As seen
           doodling of gang-related figures, themes of violence, or gang symbolisms                             with GAIN, community collaboration
                                                                                                                is a necessary ingredient as well. The
       ■   Physical signs of being in a fight, such as bruises and cuts and secrecy on the
                                                                                                                GAIN task force has continued to
           child's part as to how they were received
                                                                                                                drive subsequent initiatives as well as
       ■   A newfound sense of bravery—bragging that he or she is too tough to be “messed” with                 enable us to seek out and win grant
                                                                                                                funding to support and expand the
       ■   A new nickname
                                                                                                                program. PL
       ■   A newfound sympathy or defense of gang activity by the child

       ■   Tattoos or “branding” with gang-related symbols.
                                                                                                                 The GAIN curriculum can be
       Source: Youth Gangs: Going Beyond the Myths to Address a Critical Problem, online training event, U.S.    obtained by e-mailing Rosario
       Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools,
                                                                                                                 Pesce at

14   PL N OVEMBE R 2005
R e f e rences
❏ Center for the Study and Pre vention
of Violence. (1999). Blueprints promising
p ro g rams fact sheet: CASASTART. Boulder,
CO: Un i versity of Colorado at Boulder,
Institute of Behavioral Science, Center
for the Study and Pre vention of Violence.
❏ Chandler, K. A., Chapman, C. D.,
Rand, M. R., & Taylor, B. M. (1998).
Student re p o rts of school crime: 1989 and
1995. Washington, D.C.: U.S.
De p a rtment of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bu reau of Justice St a t i s t i c s ,
and U.S. De p a rtment of Education, Na-
tional Center for Educational St a t i s t i c s .
❏ Goldstein, A. P., & Ko d l u b oy, D.
W. (1998). Gangs in schools: Si g n s ,
symbols, and solutions. Champaign, IL:
Re s e a rch Pre s s .
❏ Ha r rell, A. V., Cavanagh, S., & Sr i d-
haran, S. (1998). Impact of the children at
risk pro g ram: Compre h e n s i ve final re p o rt
II. Washington, DC: The Urban
❏ Howell, J. C. (2000). Youth gang
p ro g rams and strategies: OJJDP summary.
Washington, DC: U.S. De p a rtment of                 Advertisement
Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
Office of Ju venile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention.
❏ Osher, D. M., Sandler, S., &
Nelson, C. L. (2001). The best approach
to safety is to fix schools and support
children and staff. In R. J. Skiba & G.
G. Noam (Eds.), Ze ro tolerance: Ca n
suspension and expulsion keep schools safe?
New directions for youth development,
No. 92 ( p p. 127–154). San Fr a n c i s c o :
Jo s e y - Ba s s .
❏ St over, D. (1986, August). Ga n g s .
American School Board Jo u rnal, 1 9–24.
❏ U.S. De p a rtment of Health and
Human Services. (2001). Youth violence:
A re p o rt of the surgeon genera l . Rockville,
MD: U.S. De p a rtment of Health and
Human Services, Centers for D s e a s ei
C o n t rol and Pre vention, National Center
for In j u ry Pre vention and Control, Su b-
stance Abuse and Mental Health Se rvices
Administration, Center for M n t a l e
Health Se rvices, and National Institutes
of Health, National Institute of M n t a l e
H alth.

                                                                      PL   NOVEMBER   2005   15

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