Gang Violence in Schools: Safety Measures and Their Effectiveness

Gang Violence in Schools: Safety Measures and Their Effectiveness

Sarah E. Daly (Rutgers University – Newark, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9938-0.ch003
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Abstract

Gang-related violence in schools can have a number of negative effects on the school environment, student achievement, and perceptions of fear. Schools that report a gang presence among students often report higher rates of victimization on school property. In response, many schools have focused on both physical and procedural safety measures to enhance security and prevent violence. However, attempts at maintaining order and ensuring safety often fall short in preventing violence and may actually enhance feelings of fear at schools. As such, schools face the difficult task of addressing violence with effective safety measures while also minimizing and balancing the prison-like feeling that comes with many of the options. This chapter aims to describe the effects of violence in schools and examine a variety of safety measures in terms of cost, effect on perceptions of fear, and effectiveness.
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Case Study

In an urban Northeastern public high school, there have been multiple gang-related incidents. Rival gangs have been feuding in the neighborhood, and the violence has carried over into the school with its juvenile, low-level members. More graffiti and tagging has appeared around the school in the bathrooms and on lockers, while increased tension has resulted in fist fights, threats, and general disruption to the school and classroom environment. The school administrators have worked with local police to punish the culprits and prevent further incidents by carrying out “random” locker searchers, staging interventions between students, and monitoring surveillance cameras more closely. Principals have confiscated three knives and two guns in the past month, and they are fearful that more weapons are entering the school. In response, the school board has approved a new zero-tolerance policy that ensures mandatory expulsion for students involved in gang-related violence or those who bring weapons on the property. The students and staff at the school are well aware of the problems, and many fear for their personal safety on a daily basis. Parents and teachers who are concerned are calling for increased security measures such as metal detectors or police officers in school, but administrators and the school board assert that with an already strapped budget, they do not have the financial or staffing resources to carry out these requests.

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Why Is It Important To Criminal Justice?

While some may imagine that seemingly minor violence that occurs in the school realm may be outside of the criminal justice spectrum, these incidents and the school environment in which they occur can and should serve as a strong indicator of the neighborhoods, town, or geographic areas that encompass the larger environment of the children involved. The students and the school itself are a reflection of the town and a microcosm of the people who live in the area. Often, underprivileged, high-crime areas are associated with dangerous, failing schools that neglect to offer their students a safe and secure environment in which they can learn. For this reason, school and gang violence has remained a priority area of research in child and adolescent psychology, school administration and public health, and counseling or social work fields. Yet, it has major implications and ties for criminal justice research as well.

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