In a recent article, Cleveland Public Schools have responded to gang violence threats by enhancing the presence of local police at the John Adams High School. John Adams High School must have a reputation for violence, otherwise the school officials and local police would have responded differently. Cleveland Public Schools can eliminate gang violence by eliminating the source of the human capital needed for gangs.
According to the article, Threats of gang violence lead to increased police presence at John Adams High School, the Cleveland local police officers increased their presence inside and outside the school. They were present during dismissal time for students and detained several students without incident. Apparently, gang violence impacts our schools and our country.
How does gang violence impact schools?
A recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that 45 percent of high school students believe that there are either gangs or gang members in their school. However, the National Association of Social Workers reports a contradiction. According to the association, only 5% of principals report either gang activity in their school.
The disparity between students and school officials may result from the differences in definition of a gang. The definition that school officials use for gangs is consistent with federal entities. According to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, gangs include an association of three or more individuals or members who collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity for which they use to create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation.
Students could believe that gangs are more prevalent because bullying is associated with creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Students may feel that the only way to protect themselves in school is to join with a group of other students who will make them feel safe.
What are some of the reasons that students may choose to join a gang which normally results in gang violence?
The Los Angeles Police Department reports five primary reasons for joining gangs includes:
- Identity or Recognition – Being part of a gang allows the gang member to achieve a level of status he/she feels impossible outside the gang culture.
- Protection – many members join because they live in the gang area and are, therefore, subject to violence by rival gangs. Joining guarantees support in case of attack and retaliation for transgressions.
- Fellowship and Brotherhood – To the majority of gang members, the gang functions as an extension of the family and may provide companionship lacking in the gang member’s home environment. Many older brothers and relatives belong, or have belonged to the gang.
- Intimidation – Some members are forced to join if their membership will contribute to the gang’s criminal activity. Some join to intimidate others in the community not involved in gang activity.
- Criminal Activity – Some join a gang to engage in narcotics activity and benefit from the group’s profits and protection.
How can teachers help to avoid gang violence?
The primary reason youth begin to consider entrance into a gang is either identification or recognition. Students who do not feel that they are connected to the school may feel isolated, unsafe, or lonely which will result in them joining a gang to feel involved, form friendships and therefore feel safe and secure.
Teachers can make students feel safe and secure by promoting positive teacher-student classroom relationships. Having positive and caring relationships in schools increases resilience and protects children from academic failure, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and destructive behavior and violence. The added benefits include teachers who develop positive and personal relationships with students may prevent psychological development problems in their students.
Teachers can also exhibit behaviors that will eventually drive students towards possible gang violence. For example, negative criticism, embarrassment, and humiliation are the most frequent acts that damage teacher-student relationships. The barriers to developing positive relationships with students also include:
- Assuming how a student responds, thinks, and feels
- Not allowing students to discover their own explanations and solutions
- Bossing or telling a student what needs to be done and how it should be done
- Criticizing students by pointing out what the students did not do right
- Pointing out to students that they should behave, think, and feel as adults
Without promoting positive teacher-student classroom relationships, students become the human capital necessary for gang violence. Teachers can help to eliminate the need for students participating in a gang which will eventually lead to gang violence by promoting positive teacher-student classroom relationships.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D. www.positiveracialrelationships.com PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
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