BY MIKE RAMEY
In the fall of 2011, it was reported that a one well-to-do school corporation were the target of a police investigation. The police had discovered that a school-based gang was busily recruiting members for a larger, local gang.
Both gangs were involved in burglaries, car break-ins and other thefts.
Of course, parents were the last to know about the police probe.
The existence of school-based gangs may be new to parents, but they continue to grow rapidly. The cops know that they are there. Schools officials know that they are there. The students know that they are there–and eagerly join AND participate.
The ONLY people who seem to be left out of the loop…are parents.
In far too many cases; what’s done IN the school house, STAYS in the school house. Once more, the taxpayer is being asked to ‘foot the bill’ for those school officials who maintain the mantra that ‘all is well’.
THE NUMBERS CONTINUE TO CLIMB:
Back in the mid-2000s, federal authorities estimated that there were some 800,000 gang members in America. In 2009 the number swelled to slightly more than 1 million. Now, a scant two years later, federal authorities issued a new study, reporting that there are some 1.5 million gang members in the USA. Two things clearly seen; 1) The programs which have been touted to fight gang activity since 2002 have NOT been working, and; 2) Our public schools are turning out to be safe havens for gang activity.
Forget the fake social flags about school house bullying and poor self-esteem. Gangs–and their recruiters–are on the march, leaving teachers, students, and administrators either caught in the grip of deliberate ignorance…or willful silence. The ‘basic’ attitude of many school officials, in my view? “Gangs are not a school problem until ‘good students’ get hurt, or, the children of school employees (often enrolled in so-called ‘better schools’) become gang targets.”
Parents are not the only ones left on the outside. Many local churches–some of them great helpers of public schools–are being left behind. The subject of religion has become blurred in the school house to administrators, but not to gang members. While Christian students who bring their Bibles to school or have prayer over their lunches are held to be troublemakers by some schools, many Modern Street Gangs have adopted a religi-criminal mode of communications. Students ‘rep’ their favorite gangs with relative ease–and scant comment–by wearing gang symbols appearing to be harmless religious icons such as crosses, crucifixes and prayer beads in plain sight on school grounds.
STREET CULTURE AND THE SCHOOL HOUSE:
Those who follow the teen scene are familiar with ‘the hoodie’; an article of street wear. Little more than a sweatshirt topped off with a hood, it has become useful in masking the identity of gang members–or others. They started to ‘catch on’ in the early 2000s as teens had adopted them as ‘the’ main choice of street wear. More than a few school corporations around the country banned hoodies as being “…disruptive to the education process…”. Many of these same school corporations later backtracked on their bans. Why? Simple economics and internal pressure.
Athletic departments and PE teachers saw hoodies as a means of; 1) keeping their student athletes warm with an article of low-priced clothing, and; 2) having something that student athletes could use to inspire ‘school pride’ via incorporation of the school athletic logo. The ‘use’ of the hoodie eventually slipped into the schools via student athletes–even though it was officially ‘banned’ by school administrators. Soon hoodies started to turn up in a variety of school colors courtesy of eager vendors. Thus, a clear item of street culture–which was officially banned–was quietly ushered into the school house because officials saw it as an economic fix. The hoodie could be ‘useful’ IF students bought them FROM vendors of the school districts’ choice!
THE THREE NEW ‘Rs’ OF EDUCATION:
Let me state this again. What was once ‘banned’ was ‘unbanned’ because it became a ready revenue source for the schools. Of course, gang members and recruiters were overjoyed. They could ‘rep’ their gang in trendy school colors and be LEGAL.
Public schools have not always been overtly ‘money hungry’. Tax revenue provided by the public ‘used’ to be enough to satisfy many school corporations. Many schools lived within their means. It seemed rare to hear that school budgets ran tight. It seemed even more rare for schools to go to the voters and request more tax revenue.
This has changed. Over the last ten years or so, school corporations have gotten greedy. Every new innovation; every new consultant’s dream just had to be ‘inserted’ into the classroom. In the mind of ‘professional educators’, the ends may not jive with the means…as long as we can count on using public money to pay for it. Furthermore, school corporations could ‘double dip’ by insisting that parents provide ‘extra’ items for schools, as in parents needed to ‘provide’ two reams of copy paper per each of their students for each semester.
When do parents see ‘cash back’ from schools? Hardly ever. Should schools ‘save’ money on an innovation, the public never seems to get a refund.
Remember the ‘Channel One’ innovation from back in the nineties? Local school corporations were to receive ‘free’ televisions and video equipment ‘in exchange for’ five to seven minutes a day access to students ‘before’ they began their studies. Before the Channel One experiment, students were limited to the outside television influences they could receive during the school day. After Channel One arrived, it seemed that schools–especially at the secondary level–couldn’t live without the use of the television in the classroom.
Let’s fast forward a few years. Now we have name brand vending & snack machines placed in many schools; name brand franchises being allowed to provide their foods in the lunch line (or have a mini-restaurant on the school campus), endless PTA/PTU fundraising drives, and students drilled to compete as young pitchmen in order to ‘win prizes’ for themselves and their schools.
These days, the 3 Rs may be interpreted: ‘Raise Revenue Regularly’.
CONFIDENTIALITY IN THE SCHOOL HOUSE:
During my tenure as a probation officer, one certain word was kept in the forefront of every case heard by the juvenile court. That word was ‘confidentiality’. There were internal rules and external rules of confidentiality existed to protect the rights of those on probation. In short, while a juvenile had committed a very real crime, they were still held to be a juvenile. They–and their parents–were entitled to having their cases kept confidential; information was not to be released to the general public. Because of the uplifting of the hip-hop/criminal ‘gangsta’ lifestyle in society, many teens have opted to ‘brag’ about their being on probation to their friends, teachers and schools. The reason for the bragging is two fold: 1) To impress their friends, and; 2) To attempt to intimidate their teachers and school staff.
Some school corporations–in co-operation with their local juvenile courts–have tried to bring back some confidentiality standards by allowing for the placement of probation officers in the school setting. Unfortunately, this innovation didn’t last. School-based probation officers soon became bogged down in the school house machinery they were sent to be above. Many of them have been used by schools as extra baby sitters or social workers for all students of their respective school, leaving them of little use to their own clients or courts.
IT’S UP TO PARENTS TO GET BACK INTO THE LOOP:
The bottom line for parents? In keeping your OWN teens and children safe, it is up to YOU to educate yourself as to gang activity in your school. Remember the saying: “What’s done in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Your local school house has the same, basic attitude towards the safety of your children. While there is a never ending shortage of programs for the prevention of bullying to teaching the joys of homosexuality and lesbianism, basic training programs for administrators and teachers to learn how to spot and stop gang activity are often ignored–even though they are plentiful.
The safety of your children rests with Y-O-U!
Schools operate on a stair step approach to discipline. Modern gangbangers are very familiar with not only school rules in the rule book, they are also familiar with them in actual practice. Just as a ex-con knows the prison system, juveniles who are involved with gang activity know how their own schools and teachers functions. Gang recruiters know that as long as they operate ‘just under the radar’, they won’t encounter much resistance from parents or the schools.
Parents have to get ‘wise’ as to the school world their children exist within.
It begins with asking questions and doing your homework.
Let me give you just a few things to look for in your teens backpack, room, notebooks or school locker. These items–and others–are identifiers of possible gang activity of your child, or some of his/her friends:
HARD/SOFT GANG IDENTIFIERS FOR PARENTS
HARD IDENTIFIERS: (2 OR MORE ITEMS)
Tattoos [Including New UV Tats] Eyebrows Shaved In Patterns
Hairstyles Hair/Head Symbols/Shavings Hand Signals/Signs
Nose Rings Earrings Rosary Beads/Cloths ‘Mean Mugging’
Markings In Webs Of Hand/On Knuckles Religious Art Facial Markings Nail Polish
Speaking Unusual Languages/Slang/Symbols Sores On Hands
SOFT IDENTIFIERS: (3 OR MORE ITEMS)
Hoodies NFL NBA College MLB Sportswear & Hats
Scarves Doo Rags Hankies Jewelry Ringtones ’Special’ Songs
Notebooks With Gang Signs & Symbols Excessive Use Of School/Uniform Wear Colors IF Gang Colors Weapons Books On Advanced Subjects
C.D.s MP3s Ipods Alcohol Cell Cams Drugs Mouthwash Inhalants
Excessive Cash Burglary/Break-in/Lockpicks Advanced Computer Websites
Custom Gang Clothing with Street Names Notes/Codes/Gang Symbols On Journals/Non-school related paperwork
WILD CARDS & POSSIBLES (2 OR MORE ITEMS)
Articles on Specific Gangs Disciplinary Problems At School Gang Websites
Active On Probation/Parole Gang You Tube/Twitter Lists
Late Night Calls Visits/Hanging Out With Older Teens/Troublemakers/J.D.s
Strange Odors/Smells ‘Bragging’ About Friends With Juvenile Records
Spending More Time Out Of Home/Away From Home
A wise parent will do a quick ‘head to toe’ check of their child before they leave in the morning, and when they come home in the evening. If enough of these items are found, it is likely that your teen has been recruited by a gang–or is already involved. Don’t get hung up on which gang your teen may representing. They are ALL dangerous, as Modern Street Gangs are quick to change their ‘look’ inside of six to nine months.
Their hope is keeping the upright off balance and ignorant to their existence.
Parents, when you see these items turn up; WISE UP and turn up the heat as to where your teen may have gotten them.
Don’t wait until you see on the TV news, or read in the paper that the school of your child is the target of a police investigation.
By then, it may be too late.
MIKE RAMEY is the Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, Indianapolis, Indiana. RAMEY is a Certified Street Gang Specialist and does workshops for law enforcement or non-law enforcement agencies. He can be contacted at his Email RameysGangLine@yahoo.com. ©2012 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications.