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Wake schools: Higher gang numbers don't tell full story

Posted August 21, 2008
Updated August 22, 2008

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— West Lake Middle School is one of the many Wake County public schools showing an increase in gang activity, according to numbers provided Thursday by the Wake County Public School System.

It went from zero reported gang-related incidents to nine in a little more than a year.

But West Lake principal Greg Decker says part of the reason the numbers are up is that school employees are more aware of what to look for, and that isn't necessarily violence.

Zero, Decker says, probably wasn't the result of there not being any gang activity the year before.

"I don't know that there is a school that is really a zero," he said. "And if you believe that, then I think there could really be a potential for problems, you know? You've got to see the elephant if the elephant is in the room"

Gang-related incidents in the Wake County Public School System for the 2007-2008 school year were up 33 percent – 25 percent in high schools and 46 percent in middle schools – from the previous school year.

Twelve of the system's 32 middle schools saw an increase over the previous year – including Dillard Drive, which saw 27 more incidents, and Carnage Middle School, which saw 23 more – while 10 schools saw a decrease. Among the 25 high schools, 10 showed an increase, nine a decrease – including Broughton High School, which moved from 40 incidents to 29.

Greater gang awareness helps create safer schools, school officials say, and in many cases, helps prevent potential crime and violence.

Greg Thomas, director of communications for the school system, says that approximately 81 percent of the reported gang incidents were for "representing," which includes behavior such as students flashing gang signs, drawing gang symbols on notebooks, using gang terminology and wearing gang-affiliated clothing or jewelry.

Systemwide, the school district has developed several training programs for staff, including a basic gang-awareness training that review the district's policy on gangs and covers basic gang identification. There is also an advanced training that covers how to address gang activity through suppression, intervention and prevention.

It also offers counseling to and training for parents if they call the schools.

And schools, like West Lake Middle, also address gang issues in staff meetings and hold awareness events.

"We're trying to be proactive, not reactive," Decker said. "These gangs are flexible, agile, and you've got to stay ahead. Well, I'd never say that we're ahead, but we've got to stay with them."


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  • ncwebguy Aug 22, 2008

    It is sad that the gangs are less likely to discriminate than the other feel good institutions that never should have received preferential treatment in a tax-supported facility in the first place.

    But if gangs can be found to be "discriminatory" (which should be easily established), then they can be banned as well.

  • ncwebguy Aug 22, 2008

    I'm pretty sure everyone pushing for "faith based initiatives" would raise heck if it was a Muslim program, or Wiccan, or any other faith that wasn't the "right" one.

    And no one is going to get paid to say "don't do drugs kids", no matter how many WRAL user accounts they create.

  • Reader Aug 22, 2008

    When did the schools kick out other organizations? I attended Girl Scout meetings in the school cafeteria, and they certainly helped many girls from troubled homes see the positive options for community service, patriotism and self-improvement. But the only Scout troops I know of today are based at churches. That's just doubling effort, since faith-based programs are already reaching these kids. Every kid is forced to attend school, so why aren't the schools hosting the programs that need to reach all kids?

  • nikkyrelay Aug 22, 2008

    Admittedly, I am NEW to this site. But I am astound by the number of contributors who only express BLAME and blame laced opinions. While ALL of our society has a right to be completely frustrated with our system of justice, our educational system and the criminal element that preys upon both--I should HOPE that SOME information concerning possible "proactive" solutions can be offered and responded to. I know Humbleblklady and myself have suggested the RELAY program--because we both have "seen it work!"; In fact, the program was "awarded" the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for Community Change--Yet, I know of NO EDUCATION ; LAW ENFORCEMENT; OR CHURCHES/COMMUNITY LEADERS who have even sought to embrace this program. I joined as a 9 yr old over 20 yrs ago and I've never seen any of the aforementioned groups-SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE! There have GOT TO BE other EFFECTIVE programs out there suffering a similar fate. ANYONE INTERESTED IN SOLUTIONS? Is that what God would want?

  • humbleblaklady Aug 22, 2008

    Gangs and youth violence, negative behavior are GREAT for ministers to preach about on Sundays; these topics are GREAT for budget increases for school systems and police departments-thus, I can understand (not accept, but understand) why practical community based solutions (that will lessen--NOT ELIMINATE--THAT IS A PROBLEM TOO BIG FOR ANYONE SHORT OF GOD) reducing these problems are automatically DISMISSED or not even visited by our so-called leadership. They are as selfish as the gang bangers that terrorize our streets and communities.

  • humbleblaklady Aug 22, 2008

    DITTO bs101fly, it doesn't matter whether you are in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro (I don't know about Charlotte or Winston); but the attitude and LACK OF WILLINGNESS to invite in the solution process anybody but law enforcement is quite puzzling. "Children First" "Get the Kids off the Streets"--Well you can get them ALL off the streets by just locking them up! But what will that accomplish in the long run for our society and our children? Educators have such personal egos, that they are AFRAID of "low cost" effective community based programs like RELAY to work with year round with these kids. Scares them that their "budget" might get cut! That fear is greater than our kids destroying each other and their future. LORD don't let them cut my budget--the more problems we have; the more money we can ask for and get (AND THE HIGHER MY SALARY WILL GO!).

  • humbleblaklady Aug 22, 2008

    TheAdmiral, I don't know what community organization you're speaking of; or what the circumstances were--but the situation sounds ALL TO FAMILIAR. "Educators" (those in leadership roles) come in and surround themselves with their "posses" and EXCLUDE everyone else from the solution process; then turn around and "include them in the "blame" stages". I've dealt with entertainers, athletes, politicians--but Educators on the administrative level have NO EQUAL when it come to egos and a "I know best and have all the answers" attitude.
    When I wrote about the 22 plus yrs. of the RELAY program (go see for yourself, www.americaschildrelay.com) the problems you talk about in reference to Mr. or Dr. Decker, sounds ALL TO FAMILIAR to the attitude that "educators" took in Greensboro (still take), Durham and Raleigh. They get their (now $200-250,000) high salaries, post their "degrees" up high and INVITE US OUT!

  • bs101fly Aug 22, 2008

    when it comes to wake county and its CURRENT state of education, compliments Del and Dulaney gang style tactics against parents, NOTHING tells the REAL story with this bunch!
    And NOTHING should surprise anyone. YOU folks keep letting them get away with ALL of it by voting to keep the reps and supporting their lies for bond money.
    Keep patting them on the back and things will NEVER change!

  • doobedobedoodoo Aug 22, 2008

    Answer to all this: Private Christian Schooling or Home Schooling.

    Public schools...the schools of last resort and lowest common denominator.

  • TheAdmiral Aug 22, 2008

    I love how they try to blow off the problem by saying that it really isn't a problem, it is just because teachers all of a sudden now how to classify the problems.

    '"We're trying to be proactive, not reactive," Decker said. "These gangs are flexible, agile, and you've got to stay ahead. Well, I'd never say that we're ahead, but we've got to stay with them."'

    Mr. Decker - when our sorry excuse for a school system kicked out the community organizations because of viewpoint discrimination and the belief that only they (the school system) can fix the problem it did two things:

    1. It alienated the parents from helping the kids deal with the problem.

    2. It invited the trouble through the front doors, not the back doors.

    I can say right now that the school system will fail in their attempts to contain the problem for the sake of political correctness. And they will come to the public asking for money and the response will be an overwhelmingly loud NO.