Reality Check - Gangs in Schools | Keep It Real

Video Production and Article by Amanda Alpert

When entering middle and high school one does not typically think of violence as a feature in South Carolina public schools. Most recently there has been an uproar over gang activity among students on the streets mostly but also inside the hallways in the South Carolina area.

“I think the biggest problem is that there is a perception that gangs in schools is a huge deal when in reality, less than 1 percent is involved in hard core gangs. There are schools that have no gang members at all. My school does not.”
--- Dutch Fork Middle School Resource Officer Larry Harrison.

According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Website, a street gang is a group or association of three or more persons who may have a common identifying sign, symbol or name, and who individually or collectively engage in, or have engaged in, criminal activity. This means that any group of friends can be considered a gang.

Though clothing color and hand gestures may be the most common feature in a gang not everyone wearing that certain color can be considered a part of the group.

“There are two ways to identify a gang member; well, there are several ways of doing it. One is of course by the way that they dress; however wearing certain colors is not enough to identify someone. There is also a lifestyle that comes with someone that is in a gang.”
--- Rony Maurice, Resource Officer at Dutch Fork High School.

Entering a school that contains children involved in these activities it may be hard for the other students. Teenagers are already going through a lot with school and keeping up social life, and fear in school is something that no one wants and the resource officers and other school officials do all they can do to help.

“I think that we are very safe as far as our resource officers go and all the teachers and adults that are around; I feel like we are pretty safe.”
--- Crystal Gallman, senior at Dutch Fork High School.

Fearful teenagers may need someone to talk to and having someone in the schools has been effective for more reasons then just to break up fights.

Along with signals and gestures many things that are associated with gangs may be a part of teenagers’ everyday life. Colors and symbols on clothing are the main things that police officers look for when identifying gangs. The colors red, blue and the newest edition, pink are the three main colors that officers look out for but again colors are not the only thing that cause officials to identify. Due to the popularity of the “gang colors” anyone could be considered in a gang until officials find out otherwise.

“You have a lot of people especially parents that are in denial. They say that red is my son’s favorite color. As a police officer, when I speak to a parent in concern telling them that their son might be in a gang because they are wearing lets say red or blue or pink, which is a new color now, denial is the problem I see. The best way to help people is to educate. It comes down to the parents basically having an open mind, and not just parents. Community leaders, pastors, teachers, administrators and even police officers need to have an open mind and accept some of the literature we are putting out.” Maurice said.

So, to be safe, make sure that you are not hanging out with people who participate in criminal activity. Steer clear of people whom you don’t know very well.

Before becoming a part of a group make sure that you know who they are and what they stand for. If for some reason you are suspicious of your friends or any other group, here are some things that professionals look for: fighting, vandalism, graffiti, armed robbery weapon offenses, auto theft battery and drug dealing.

Also remember that when you are initiated into a gang, whether you are “beat in” or “sexed in,” when you try to get out they will either do the same thing or not allow you out at all. So, before making the decision to become a part of this group remember the consequences that may come when you change your mind later down the road.

Lastly, if you are struck by a bad situation or get into some trouble and are confused about how to get out of it, your resource officer at your school can help. That is what they are there for. And if your school happens not to have an officer on duty you can talk to your parents or guidance counselor.