Gang Violence in American Schools Essay

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Did you ever have to move because your kids were bullied at school? Is the community you are living in is unsafe with gang violence and you were afraid your kids will grow up to be a notorious gangster? You believe the ideal place to raise a family is in a higher income suburban area where the school system is better and your kids will be free from violence. You might want to think again. In fact, youth gangs, now more violent than ever, are spreading to new locations (Gaustad, 1 ) all across the country, including public schools. Gangs are moving suburban areas to recruit more members to expand their gang group. They are using new members to distribute drugs because it is appealing to young children and profitable. It is causing an increase in violence in schools because other gang group does not get along with another set of gang. Kids are scared to go to school because they are afraid they might get bullied and attack. The dropout rates has increase, more weapons are being brought to school endangering lives. School properties are being vandalized with school logos and teachers are getting injured from trying to intervene (Capozzoli and McVey, 81).

Gang violence in school are getting worse that school officials, community members, and law enforcements are coming together to figure out solutions. The three solutions that seems to be showing a great impact in reducing gang violence in American schools are school uniforms, peer mediation programs, and after school programs. School uniforms are the first solution that will help cut back gang violence in American schools. Gangs use colors, certain types of clothing, and bandanas to symbolize what group they are from or associate themselves with. Students that are not involved in gangs are unable to walk down the school hallway without being accuse they are involve with a rival gang due to the color shirt he or she may be wearing. School uniforms are typically seen in private or foreign countrys schools to indicate a business-like atmosphere ( Skiba, 10). Now it is becoming more common in public schools because it keeps pupils in similar clothing.

The typical school uniforms usually consist of khaki pants and collar shirts. Female pupils are sometimes in a skirt that goes down past their knees. The colors of the collar shirts vary depending on what schools students attend. School uniforms will end gang members from wearing clothing indicating what group they are from. This will help reduce violence between rival gangs because it will be difficult to point out what gang another student associate themselves with. Students will be able to concentrate more on learning than worrying about getting attack. Not only does uniform help reduce the violence but it also help schools bring unity together and help pupils who come from a family with financial difficulty feel less pressure to dress a certain way to fit in (Lopez, 4).

The Long Beach Unified School District decided to establish a school uniform policy during the 1990s to help pupils further their education in an elementary school. The school district had supports from parents who feared for their childs safety while they were walking to school and mistaken to be a rival gang member due to the color clothing they were wearing. Violence has dropped 86% after the school uniform policy been established for 5 years (Lopez, 4). Murray states, higher student ratings of the quality of school climate in schools with a uniform policy after studies was done on two North Carolina schools (qtd. in Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence, 10).

The second solution are peer mediation programs. Peer mediation is a program that involves people who are chosen and educated to resolves issues between individuals that has dispute with one another. The program is used in schools, youth centers, and juvenile justice setting to help young people learn how to solve their conflict through talking it out instead of using violence. Peer mediation programs are used to help decrease lockdowns, suspensions, detentions, and to bring positive atmosphere. Instead of adults trying to diffuse the conflict between young people, the program gives students the ability to help their peer s figure out a solution to their conflict with one another. It also allows the disputers to be more open and able to express why they are conflicting with the other student.

Young people tend to feel more comfortable and connect better with people their own age because they feel they wont be judged. Students are the initiator of confrontations among other students. They have to be neutral and must go through training so they can understand the process. The process of peer mediation are broken down into six steps where the facilitator has to come up with rules that must be followed, hear both sides of the story, determine if it is the same issue causing the problem, suggest solutions that will fix the problem, make sure solution fits the goal of the outcome, and help dispute agree on a solution (Crawford and Bodine, 23).

Classical high school in Lynn, Massachusetts has been using peer mediation program for 14 years now and feel that the program will help decrease violence in schools. The program is very important to the school that students have to put an application in and go through an interview process by the coordinator of the program, Miriam Markowitz to become a mediator. Student who have conflict dispute with one another are brought into a private room where the student mediator tries to resolve their issues by easing the pressure off the disputers to act a certain way if they were around their friends. Classical high school reported a 90 percent success rate (Weber, 9).

When school is out; kids can keep themselves occupied and out of trouble by going to an after school program. After school program is a safe place where kids are supervised, kept busy to drift them away from negative behaviors like gangs and drugs. A lot of the kids who goes to the after school programs lacks adult guidance, or come from a low income family that the parents are working a 12 hour shift and cannot be around to supervise their every move. The staffs at after school programs dont just help kids with their homework but they build relationships with them and try to guide them in the right direction (after school activities and clubs). After school programs are not just programs where kids come to do home works and activities, it is also a place where they learn about gang violence, how to prevent involvement. Council for Unity is an after school program located in Riverhead, New York that was developed by Riverhead high school.

The program consist of students from different ethnic backgrounds that come together every Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to talk about what issues are going on in the community, ways to prevent the violence in their schools and to learn about gang violence prevention. The coordinator, Mr. Desenna ask special guest to come by to talk and educate the kids (Council for Unity). Another after school program that is a major success and has been around since 1988 is Roca located in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Roca is a nonprofit organization that works with young people from ages 14 to 24 to help them stay away from gang, teen pregnancy, being incarcerated and graduate high schools. Roca work very closely with young people who are involved in gangs. Staffs from Roca have a program that they call outreach that consist of them walking the streets and trying to build relationships with the gang members. Most of the staffs have gone through incarceration or is an ex-gang member that has turned their lives around and using their experience to influence youths in a positive way. The program helped more than 15,000 young people make positive, profound changes in their lives (rocain.org)

Gang violence in American schools is not going to go away overnight but if efforts are put in like: establishing school uniforms, peer mediation programs and providing more free after school programs, it soon will not be an issue facing the school systems. Having positive young people trying to influence their peers will help tremendously.

Works Cited

Capozzoli, Thomas, and R. Steve. McVey. Gangs and Schools. Kids Killing Kids: Managing Violence and Gangs in Schools. Boca Raton, FL: St. Lucie, 2000. 81-82. Print. Council For Unity. Riverhead.net. Web. 5 Apr. 2011. . Crawford, Donna, and Richard Bodine. Conflict Resolution Education. Rep. Champaign,IL: Research, 1996. Print. Gaustad, Joan. Gangs.ERIC Digest. Ericdigests.org. 2005. Web. 29 Mar. 2011. . Lopez, Rebecca A. The Long Beach Unified School District Uniform Initiative: A Prevention-Strategy for Urban Schools. The Journal of Negro Education 72.4 (2003). The Long Beach Unified School District Uniform Initiative: A Prevention-Strategy for Urban Schools. Web. 31 Mar. 2011. . Project, Key. Roca : Who We Are. Welcome to Roca. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. . Skiba, Russel J. Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence. Rep. 2000. Print. Weber, Gretchen. Peace among Peers. The Lynn Educator 2008. Print.

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