There are approximately 27,900 gangs, with 774,000 members, impacting towns, cities, and communities across the United States. According to a recent bulletin released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 23 percent of students aged 12 through 18 years reported presence of street gangs in their schools. Almost half (46%) of students in public schools reported street gang presence. In addition, 21 percent of students in suburban schools and 15 percent in rural schools reported presence of street gangs. According to a survey conducted by the National Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education, 13.8 percent of American high school students joined a gang during the 1993-1994 school period (Manning). Schools have become prime recruiting grounds due to young gang members attending the schools. It is evident that gang members’ stake out their turfs in their territory, including the neighborhood school grounds (Wheeler & Baron, 1993). There is no universally accepted definition of a gang. Gang definitions continue to be debated by the nations most experienced and knowledgeable academicians who study gangs.
A youth gang is considered as a collection of adolescents and young adults who interact frequently; are deliberately involved in illegal activities; share a common identity and typically adopt certain methods of identification and control. Gang violence negatively impacts schools to the extent of death. Deaths resulting from school violence are only part of the problem. Many young people experience nonfatal injuries. Some of these injuries are relatively minor and include cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Other injuries such as gunshot wounds and head trauma are more serious and can lead to permanent disability. Gang violence adversely affects the property value of a community since investors shy away from high risks areas. Elimination of gang violence requires a lot of resources and this creates severe budgetary constraints in the affected communities. Gang violence instills fear since people are constantly worrying about gang fights and violence. Exhortation schemes by gang members can bring the prices of commodities high since businesses have to make up for these losses by increasing prices. Effective mechanisms have been put forth to curb or end gang violence.
The two most effective ways of ending gang violence are gang prevention programs and enforcing school uniforms to all schools and students. One effective way of ending gang violence in American schools is providing gang prevention programs. Gang prevention programs are programs that directly engage schools with law enforcements groups, local churches, and neighborhood watch groups with the aim of thwarting and ending gang violence. It helps provide for outreach programs intended to deter or curtail any gang related associations. Since students spend a lot of time in school, early warning signs of gang involvement can be identified and communicated to both parents and the support groups. These programs also create programs for in school and after school extracurricular activities and anti-gang lessons. Students involved in this activities are less likely to get time to engage in gang activities and unlikely to mess their bright future. There has been wide success in these programs. (National League pg. 33-37).
According to Peter Greenwood “Prevention and Intervention Programs for Juvenile Offenders” there was a fifty percent decline in bullying activities over a period of two years in a bullying program that involved elementary and junior high students. Gang Resistance Education and Training Program in California that involves training gang related violence and juvenile delinquency has yielded incredible success. The program involves offering curriculum designed to prevent students from using delinquent behaviors and violence as a basis of solving their problems. The program entails an elementary and a middle school curriculum, a summer program and family training. The elementary curriculum is a precursor to the middle school one and it involves teaching about violence prevention, decision making and people to go by the children that needs help, teaches about good communication skills, anger management and great citizen’s attributes. The middle school program teaches about gangs, drugs, violence student’s roles in school and community, effective communication skills, empathy towards individuals affected by gangs, refusal to join gang’s tactics, anger control and an explanation of how to stay committed to their school and the community.
The summer program provides for recreational activities such as sports, hiking and camping and also provides for educational activities. The family program teaches about great family relationships, effective communication, law abiding and effective discipline skills, and ways to reduce bullying (G.R.E.A.T). Participants in this program have shown significant increase in favorable social behaviors and high reduction in gang related activities. Other programs such as Ventura County’s Recovery Program offering counseling in mental and drug related cases have yielded significant decrease in gang related involvements and violations by the students attending that program. Multi Partner Attendance Center in Sacramento California that deals with gang related issues also recorded significant reduction in burglary and destruction related crimes by it attendees (National League pg. 33-37). It is evident that gang prevention programs yield great success and are a critical in reduction of gang related violence. Another effective gang prevention program involves enforcing school uniforms to all schools and students. School uniforms are a counter measure against easily identifiable gang colors. Gang colors are specialized clothing worn by gang members to identify and distinguish them from rival gangs.
There are many gang colors such as blue for “crips” or red for the “bloods”. Crips gang was formed in Los Angeles in the 60s and the blood was a reactionary gang group that was formed to counter the crips. The gang colors create conflict since individuals can easily identify the gang affiliations and respond favorably if from the same gang and violently if from the opposing gang. The crips think they can effectively cripple the bloods through violence while the bloods think they can counter the crip by baying for their blood. Gang members have a sense of belonging and usually protect members of the same gang through gang color identification. School uniforms have been introduced as counteractive measures against the gang colors. According to dictionary.com a school uniform is “an outfit, a set of standardized clothes worn primarily for an educational institution”. All students of the particular school that requires uniforms must wear the uniform during school hours. Boys’ uniforms often consist of dark short or long trousers and light-colored shirt, often with a tie. Girls’ uniforms vary between school systems but typically consist of a dress or a blouse worn either with a skirt or culottes or under a pinafore.
School uniforms eliminates gang conflicts by creating uniformity among the students hence disrupting, obscuring, and dismantling identification created by gang colors. School uniforms also eliminate gang violence since trespassers can be easily identified and arrested. The uniforms eliminate peer and gang pressure and superiority complex since all students wear the same and that no one is seen more superior than the other. School uniforms also make it difficult to sneak weapons in schools since students are subject to metal detectors and anybody wearing street clothes elicits an instantaneous reaction; is treated with caution and is subject to rigorous security checks. A sense of equality and positive learning is fostered since students wearing uniform considers themselves the same and treats each other with respect regardless of social-economic status. The favorable results of school uniforms have been adequately documented.
The first school district to implement school uniforms was Long Beach Unified School District in California. Carl A. Cohn, the Superintendent of Long Beach reported a 36% decrease in school crime and gang related activities. Schools in states such as Chicago, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, and Virginia have reported a decrease in gang related activity after implementing school uniforms (Caruso). Uniforms have become increasingly popular among our nation’s public schools. At the beginning of the 1997-1998 school years, the Council of the Great City Schools reported that more than 50% of the nation’s urban public schools had instituted school uniform policies, which accounted for thousands of schools (Cruz 33).
The Primary aim of introducing uniforms policy is to reduce violence and behavioral related problems (Brunsma 183). It seems evident that the implementation of uniforms have stimulated positive learning environment and lowered rates of gang violence and crimes in schools located in high crime urban areas such as East Chicago and Gary, notoriously known for high crime rates and dangerous gang activity (Brunsma 187-188). Gang violence is a great detriment to the society and its repercussion can be far reaching. It is important to identify gang’s presence in schools and immediately curb their existence. Gang prevention programs and enforcing school uniforms to all schools and students are critical ways of preventing and eliminating gang menace. The safety of students is of utmost importance and it must be guaranteed at all cost.
Brunsma, David L. The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us about
American Education: A Symbolic Crusade. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Education, 2004. Caruso, Peter. “Individuality vs. Conformity: The Issue Behind School Uniforms.” NASSP Bulletin 8,581 (September 1996): 83-88. EJ532 294 Cruz, Barbara. School Dress Codes: A Pro/Con Issue. New Jersey: Enslow, 2003. G.R.E.A.T-Preventing Youth Crime, Violence and Gang Involvement http://www.great-online.org – Web 11 Nov 12.
Manning, Anita. (1994, October 21). “Trouble follows armed students: Drug abuse, violence more likely.” USA Today National League of Cities Institute for youth, Education and Families. Preventing Gang Violence and Building Communities Where Young People Thrive. Washington, D.C.: National League of Cities, 2012. Wheeler, Eugene & Baron, Anthony (1993). Violence in Our Schools, Hospitals, and Public Places: A Prevention and Management Guide. Ventura, CA: Pathfinder Publishing.