Gangs and Violence in Schools

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Gangs and Violence in Schools

During the first week of my junior professional experience, I remember my cooperating teacher reading to me an e-mail that she received from the school's administration. It was informing all of the teachers of new ways to identify gang member; the colors they may wear, they way they write certain letters of the alphabet. A few days later I recall seeing one of the students in my class making different hand gestures, which I later learned were gang signs. Then, a couple of weeks into my full participation in the classroom, another one of my students was suspended for breaking another student's jaw. Yet another of my students was suspended rather recently for threatening to bring a gun to school. All of these incidents, along with an assembly that was held one day about gang violence, have made me much more aware of the violence and gang participation that takes place in urban schools.

Because it seemed so prevalent in the Trenton school district, I decided to delve deeper into the issue of gangs and violence in schools. I have learned that in Trenton there are "three main gangs - the Bloods, the Crips and the Latin Kings," (NJ.com) some of which have been known to have members as young as thirteen. This alarmed me, because this is the age of most of my seventh grade students. It was hard for me to picture any of them being in a gang. I, like many suburban dwellers, have never had contact with gang members, not to my knowledge anyway. Now I am working in a school full of students who encounter gang members everyday, and may even be a part of a gang themselves.

When I became aware of the regular occurrence of gangs in the Trenton area, I began to wonder why adolescents, usually males, join gangs in the first place. Though there are many explanations and, of course, each young male has his own reason, many of them [the reasons] revolve around the issues of safety, respect, money, and a sense of identity…Many of them [the gang members] learned at an early age that they were vulnerable if they did not belong to a gang that would protect them when they were threatened by other gang members (Patton 59).

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